Enjoy the little things,
for one day you may look back
and realize they were the big things.
Like many readers I think I can gauge whether a book is for me by the front cover, the blurb on the back cover and, occasionally, a quotation at the beginning. The colour of the cover for Love in Small Letters reminded me of One Day by David Nicholls so was instantly appealing and the above quote had me nodding in recognition.
What does the blurb on the back say?
“When Samuel wakes up on 1st January he is convinced that the year ahead will bring nothing exciting or unusual – until a strange visitor bursts into his flat, determined not to leave. The appearance of Mishima, a stray cat, leads Samuel to a strange encounter with the enigmatic Valdemar and his neighbour Titus, with whom he had previously never exchanged a word, and is the catalyst for the incredible transformation that is about to occur in the secluded world he has built around himself.
As unexpected friendships develop out of these encounters and a childhood love is reignited, Samuel discovers, for the first time, how small everyday acts can have the power to unleash a hurricane of feeling and awaken the heart from its slumber.”
That’s all three boxes ticked.
Originally published in Catalan in 2010, this is a new translation, by Julie Wark, of an acclaimed novel by Barcelona born, Francesc Miralles. Conscious that you are not reading the author’s exact words, you have to trust the translator to capture the soul of the writer and not just the words. Of course, I have no way of knowing if this is the case but there was certainly a good rhythm to the novel, the words flowed with ease and this very engaging little book was a real pleasure to read.
Samuel, a lecturer in German studies and linguistics, is a self-contained but lonely man and we see him on New Year’s Eve, bringing in the New Year on his own, with a bunch of grapes (one to be eaten on each chime). The sudden appearance of a stray cat frustrates him and causes his normal routines to be turned upside-down. Within a few days of the cat entering his life, he has met his neighbour in the upstairs apartment and caught sight of Gabriela, a girl with whom he once shared a brief, tender moment when he was a young boy.
The book examines the idea of cause and effect: what are the consequences of small acts? Did feeding a stray cat inevitably lead to him finding a lost love? Samuel has a keen interest in literature and philosophy so the book is peppered with references to fascinating stories by Kafka, Goethe and Graham Greene plus quirky definitions from Rheingold’s dictionary, They Have a Name for It. The music of Mendelssohn also weaves its way magically through the pages. This makes for a beautifully intelligent yet refreshingly simple novel.
I did feel some disappointment, however, as the novel seemed too short. I wanted more – of the characters, the plot, the quotes and definitions. Love in Small Letters was, for me, love in too few letters.
Love in Small Letters was sent to me to review by the publishers, Alma Books.
Price: £6.39 from Alma Books