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Publisher: Penguin Books$12.16Ten Things I've Learnt about Love (Large Print Hardcover)
Publisher: Thorndike Press$31.99
Daniel is called many things--"tramp," "bum," "lost." He hasn't had a roof over his head for almost thirty years, but he once had a steady job and a passionate love affair with a woman he's never forgotten. To him, the city of London has come to be like home in a way that no bricks and mortar dwelling ever was. He makes sculptures out of the objects he finds on his walks throughout the city--bits of string and scraps of paper, a child's hair tie, and a lost earring--and experiences synesthesia, a neurological condition which causes him to see words and individual letters of the alphabet as colors. But as he approaches his sixties his health is faltering, and he is kept alive by the knowledge of one thing--that he has a daughter somewhere in the world whom he has never been able to find.
A searching and inventive debut, "Ten Things I've Learnt About Love" is a story about finding love in unexpected places, about rootlessness and homecoming, and the power of the ties that bind. It announces Sarah Butler as a major new talent for telling stories that are heart-wrenching, page-turning, and unforgettable.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-05-20
- Reviewer: Staff
Alice, the youngest of three sisters, has felt oddly disconnected from her family since the death of her mother when she was four. Leaving her father and siblings and a failed romance in London, she sets out to travel the world, wandering from place to place until her sisters summon her home because their father is dying of pancreatic cancer. Alice is adrift and unsettled, unable to communicate her love to her father before he dies, and self-conscious about her choices when compared to her sisters. Alice alternates narration with Daniel, a 60-year old homeless man whose heart troubles are causing him to revisit his past, including the affair he had with a married woman. As Alice moves forward, cleaning her deceased father’s house and making peace with her sisters, Daniel works up the courage to approach her. The relationship they build is unusual, and Butler’s elegant prose—interspersed with thoughtful lists, such as “Ten things I know about my mother” and “Ten foods that stress me out,” written by Alice and Daniel—makes this a moving debut. Agent: Andrew Kidd, Aitken Alexander Associates (U.K.). (July)
Finding a place to belong
Love has many forms. It’s the bond between a parent and a child. It shows up in sibling relationships. It’s the connective tissue that unites sweethearts. It’s a lasting friendship.
And all too often, love is a complex web of emotion, commitment and uncertainty. That’s certainly the case for the characters in Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love, a debut novel by Londoner Sarah Butler.
At nearly 30, Alice is the youngest of three daughters, and she has always felt as though her parents should have stopped with just two children. Her mother died in a car wreck en route to pick up 4-year-old Alice from ballet. Ever since, Alice thinks it has been difficult for her father to look at her. That paranoia has resulted in difficult relationships with him and her sisters. Alice has spent most of her adulthood as a globetrotting nomad.
Daniel is similarly adrift, wandering the streets of London in search of the daughter he never knew. Both of his parents have died, and the woman he loved was never his to begin with. Life has dealt him a difficult hand, leaving him homeless and, save for finding his child, without purpose. “You can’t miss someone you’ve never met. But I miss you,” he says to her.
As Butler shifts between—and eventually links—Alice’s and Daniel’s stories, the novel explores the intricacies of familial relationships and what an individual is willing to sacrifice to preserve the relationships and the people in his or her life. Combining detailed storytelling with character-revealing lists of 10 things her protagonists have learned to treasure, Butler establishes herself as a talent to watch.