“The Lover’s Dictionary” by David Levithan

loversdictionaryWikipedia says:

The Lover’s Dictionary is a 2011 novel by the American author David Levithan. It is his first novel for adults.

This is a modern love story told by a nameless narrator entirely through dictionary entries. These short entries provide insight into the ups and downs of their romantic relationship, revealing the couple’s problems with alcoholism and infidelity. The story does not unfold in chronological order; instead, it is arranged alphabetically by dictionary entries which give glimpses into the joys and struggles the characters face over the course of their relationship.

The idea for the book was inspired by a Valentine’s Day tradition in which the author writes a story for a group of family members and friends. While trying to come up with an idea for a new Valentine’s Day story, the author noticed a book called Words You Need to Know sitting on his desk and became inspired. “Could I tell the story of a relationship by just randomly picking words in alphabetical order from this book and then writing entries as if it were a dictionary?” Levithan wondered. He chose the words in alphabetical order and let the story and characters reveal themselves as he wrote the dictionary entries.

We read this in September 2013.

10 people attended the meeting and the group was split with a few really liking the book, and two really loathing it.  The rest were in between.  Those who liked it picked out selected entries as being particularly interesting. Several commented that was not explicit about the gender or sexuality of the narrator, and liked this, as reflecting the universality of love and its challenges. However, readers also felt that that despite the wording of the front cover, this was not really a “novel”. We had a discussion about how maybe the book should be read slowly, like poetry.

Scores ranged from 2 up to 7, from 11 members including email votes from two people who couldn’t attend on the night.  The average was 4.5 out of 10.


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1 Comment

  1. malcolmbbc

     /  November 2, 2013

    Hilary couldn’t make the meeting but sent these comments:

    This is a Curate’s egg type of book – bits were excellent and well-cooked, other bits seemed weak and forced and were basically under-done. A bit too American on the whole for me – but impressed that a male writer was willing to share such a lot of emotional baggage with us, I know it’s fiction and not autobiographical, but I would give an extra point on that alone.

    The repetition was un-necessary.

    Sometimes his imagination failed him I think e.g. for ‘X’

    Also – the jacket (or a review comment on the jacket) seemed to imply this was a ‘conversation’ between two lovers’ voices – but I only heard one voice.

    Could have had a bit more comedy, it was a bit serious. Serious subject,
    though, relationships.

    Score: 5/10 for content plus one for basically an original idea and for being a brave man!
    So 6/10 overall


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