Monday, 29 April 2013

The Library of Unrequited Love

Finished April 28
The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry, translated by Siân Reynolds

This short novel is the first novel for Divry. It takes place on the lower level of the public library in a unnamed provincial town in France. The librarian goes into work one morning to discover a patron who had been locked in overnight. She then says she can't let them out before the library opens as it would alert others to the patron had been in the library after hours, and proceeds to talk about the library, her life, her dreams, and other matters. The text is one long monologue by the librarian, although there are a few points where the patron obviously commented or reacted in some way, but we only get the librarian's words.
There are points where she seems to fall into an unhappy and untrue stereotype of librarian:
"Being a librarian isn't an especially high-level job, I can tell you. Pretty close to being in a factory. I'm a cultural assembly line worker. So what you need to know is, to be a librarian, you have to like the idea of classification, and to be of a docile nature. No initiative, no room for the unexpected; here, everything is in its place, invariably in its place."
But other times she seems to be more progressive. She espouses the views of Eugène Morel (a man I was admittedly ignorant of until now) a Frenchman who had the following view demands of libraries:
"...make it easier to borrow books, have longer opening hours, keep the collections up to date, have comfortable seats, special areas for children, and the underpinnings of the whole thing, the idea, the supreme aim, was that the people should be able to read."
and she feels that:
" my job, there's nothing more exciting, to make you feel wanted, than to be able to size up the person in front of you, guess what they're after, find the book they need on the shelves and bring the two together. Book and reader, if they meet up at the right moment in a person's life, it can make sparks fly, set you alight, change your life." 
She has dreams of more for herself, both professionally and personally, but lacks the hope or will to make these dreams come true.
This is a gem of a book, and I have to thank Ben McNally for introducing me to it.


  1. I love books about books and I always look for good French books, this looks just like the right one. Thank you for posting this. I will go now and find it. :-D
    Marianne from Let's Read

  2. You are quite welcome Marianne. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.