“I’m always so ashamed when I discover how well-read other people are and how ignorant I am in comparison.”
This book was a gift from a friend who knows just how much I adore books… and lemons.
I had just finished Edith’s Diary by Patricia Highsmith when my eyes landed on the recently arrived copy of A Library of Lemons. Its bright cover seemed to whisper promises of a lightness that I most certainly craved after having read the haunting Highsmith. Little did I know…
I would say that A Library of Lemons is a considerately written novel about the importance of people – when I say people I don’t simply mean the ones that surround us, the others, but also ourselves, our own existence.
“People need people. You can’t just keep yourself apart all the time so that you don’t get hurt. All that means is you get hurt anyway and you’re alone.”
I believe Jo Cotterill more than succeeds at conveying the message that we need each other. We may not always know how to reach out, we may not always recognize when someone else is trying to reach out, but closing our eyes altogether will certainly not help. We may feel as if we are protecting our loved ones, but they know, they know something is going on, they just don’t know how to ask – or perhaps they are afraid.
I think this is one important book, particularly for young readers. The language is more than suitable for youngsters and the storyline creates a safe haven that I believe is vital to the process of learning how to open up. In a world that seems far too quick to judge, and way too slow when it comes to forgiving, A Library of Lemons is like a friendly hand leading us toward a middle ground that seems utopic to many, but that exists.
A novel about grief, yes. A Library of Lemons is the light at the end of a tunnel that might at first feel endlessly long. A Library of Lemons is a reminder that no matter how long, a tunnel will always be a tunnel and that means it will always have a way out.
One. And another. And another…
“‘So… how can two opposite things both be normal?’
Mae bites her lip thoughtfully. ‘It sort of makes you wonder how anyone works out what normal is.’
‘And if no one is really sure…’ I say. ‘If people are just making up their own idea of normal, then…’
‘Then anything is normal. And everything,’ concludes Mae.”
“If you happen to pass by 84 Charing Cross Road, kiss it for me! I owe it so much.”
Even though the bookshop itself is long gone, you can rest assured that I will be walking by where it stood next time I am in London. I shall buy a new copy of 84 Charing Cross Road and I shall leave it there for someone to find, a reminder of just how much Helene Hanff, even at a distance, loved the place.
You see, I feel like I too owe it quite a lot. If it weren’t for the bookshop and the wonderful people that kept it going for as long as it did, this book would not be a reality, and that’s not something I can live with. Honestly, I can no longer imagine a world without the existence of this little peculiar and hopeful family.
People brought together by books. Real people brought together by real books. It’s like witnessing firsthand a favorite meet-cute crossing the ever-changing line that both separates and connects fiction and reality. It happened. For me, it was an infusion of hope and wonder, wrapped in a collection of letters that speak of gratitude, that speak of dreams, laughs, and that sheds some tears.
These voices, these people, they become alive in your head from the moment you first meet them, from the moment you first read their words. They are a delightful bunch, let me tell you. Their company is entertaining beyond reason, and you soon find yourself involved as if you were always part of the whole scheme.
“People oughtn’t to breeze into your life and out again in ten seconds, without leaving even a name behind. As Mr. Dickens once pointed out, we’re all on our way to the grave together.”
I have yet to sit down for a couple of lifetimes and consider the concept of coincidence, but the truth is that this book has already played its wonderful magic on me. I have met someone through its pages that would have otherwise probably remained a stranger for eternity. This person from what feels like a world away wrote to me because her edition was lacking a page – we have been talking ever since.
I feel like I somehow owe it to Helene Hanff not to break this little enchanting chain. That is why we are giving away a copy of 84 Charing Cross Road this month.
To participate all you have to do is leave a comment on this post saying, “I will kiss it for you.”
Best of luck to you all, fellow book lovers. May the magical hat be on your side!
P.S. You have until the 20th of July to participate.
‘You see, Jordan’, said Perdu, taking a different tack, ‘a book is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy. Putting the right novels to the appropriate ailments: that’s how I sell books’.
All it took was one quick glance at the back cover of this book, where you can find the quote above, for me to know that I had to read it.
The main character is Monsieur J. Perdu, a very special bookseller that lives at 27 Rue Montagnard, Paris. He honestly believes that books are more than escapes, more than distractions, more than simple symbols lying randomly on a piece of paper. For Monsieur Jean Perdu, books are life and life is a book that we write ourselves, sometimes with the aid of other already written words.
As the grandmother, mother and girl said their good-byes and went on their way, Perdu reflected that it was a common misconception that booksellers looked after books.
They look after people.
Heving the dream of opening a bookstore myself, I felt right at home with this book. The first few chapters are, in my opinion, absolutely delicious. It truly starts as a book about books and book lovers. As you go on though, it becomes the book of someone’s life, the book of Jean Perdu. His having been a human life, it comes with love and loss, passion and hatred, ups and downs… it’s a roller coaster, making and losing its sense depending on the reader’s own experiences.
I love how the people in Perdu’s life come together. I love how they forgive one another, I love how that wave of almost selfless forgiveness seems to be start of their own journey into self-forgiveness. It’s like this novel is telling us that we can’t be without other beings. Which, in my opinion, and to a certain point, is absolutely true.
The writing style has ups and downs, like the book itself, like Perdu’s life. It seems fitting, even if oddly at times, when there’s a sudden change in rhythm.
I wish we could have heard more about the other peculiar characters that lived at 27 Rue Montagnard. I do understand why we had to leave them behind to follow Perdu’s storyline. He had to leave them himself. He needed to start a new chapter, but had to first review some that had yet to be edited.
That said, it was quite a lovely read. It has its corny moments, but don’t we all?
P.S. I would love to read the book that Mr. Perdu was writing