To say that I loved ‘Ten things I’ve Learnt About Love’ by Sarah Butler would be an understatement. Yes, I loved it but I also felt that I have lived that book, that life, those choices and those regrets.
I checked out the book because I liked the cover. It is styled as a list and even though I am not a person who makes lists, but I am drawn to them so I picked up the book. The two protagonists – Daniel and Alice – are both lost and looking for something. Alice has returned to London just in time to say good bye to her dying father and Daniel is a man looking for a daughter he’s never met. Every chapter is alternately narrated by Alice and Daniel and starts with a list of ten things which tells us a lot about the characters. It is also my favourite part of the book. I think it helps if we make lists – even if we just want to share them with a shrink.
Reading it was not only emotional but also personal. Let me admit that there are way too many similarities between me and one of the protagonists of the book Alice, for me to feel even remotely neutral about the book. We both lost our mothers when we were very young and then lost our dads at about the same age. We both were youngest daughters and have this weird love hate relationship with our elder sisters. Just like Alice, I too had to sort my dad’s house after his death and then had to put it up on sale. Doing that in a grievous state is perhaps the single most difficult thing that I ever had to do so while I was reading it, I was reliving that time of my life.
I too lost the only home I knew with Dad’s death. It made me reassess my relationship with everything – my work, the rest of the family, my city because when you lose that one anchor that has kept you connected with the rest of the things in your life, you are lost and would be floundering and grappling with the very idea of a home and a sense of belonging. This book is all about that.
It is beautifully written poignant tale where you need to take time between chapters to think and contemplate and ask questions. The characters are not nice nor are they black and white – they are real – like most of us with a bit of good, a bit of bad and a sprinkling of oddities that makes us human and fallible. It’s a sad book yet it still is infused with hope. It is about affection and human connection, about identity that we attach to persons and home and about the hunt for something to hold on to.
It’s a love story but not a typical one. It’s a love story where you both wonder and search for something at the same time. It is also an ode to the city of London which is perhaps the most engaging character of the book.
I am giving this book a solid five star recommendation; readers who want everything spelled out would perhaps give it a two. Other readers may not feel the same connection with the book that I did because Alice and Daniel are not the most likeable characters out there, and you may not feel the same way about London as I do, but I would still like you to give it a try. It’s a great read for self reflection.