Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Review: 'The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman' by Denis Thériault, Liedewy Hawke

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely PostmanI was given this novel by my father on Friday for our Sinterklaas celebration and I thought it looked simply gorgeous. I mean, that cover alone deserves some reflection. And then I found myself on a train journey back and this book simply felt perfect.
Bilodo lives a solitary daily life, routinely completing his postal rounds every day and returning to his empty Montreal apartment. But he has found a way to break the cycle—Bilodo has taken to stealing people's mail, steaming open the envelopes, and reading the letters inside. 
And so it is he comes across Ségolène's letters. She is corresponding with Gaston, a master poet, and their letters are each composed of only three lines. They are writing each other haikus. The simplicity and elegance of their poems move Bilado and he begins to fall in love with her. 
But when tragedy strikes unexpectedly one day, Bilodo is faced with the prospect of being deprives of the one fulfilling part of his life. Confronted with the awful possibility of losing his beloved's poetry for ever, to what lengths will he go to protect his obsession?
Thériault's haunting writing vividly conjures up the reality of one man's life and fate, with all its tragic, comic and beautiful moments.
I really enjoyed the narration, which remains completely with Bilodo throughout the novel. I have read a lot of books recently which switch narrators and although this is a nice way of allowing the reader an insight into all the different characters, it also means that none of the characters become your guiding point, if that makes sense. Bilodo is there for the reader to cling onto in a slightly fantastical tale and the reader cannot help but become deeply attached to him. However, Thériault also makes sure that the reader manages to keep enough distance so that they can take in the whole story. Bilodo is not always shown from his best side, which makes him a very human character, and also the characters around him are both "good" and "bad" at different times.

What I absolutely adored about this book was the way Thériault manages to combine prose and haikus into a style that seems coherent and wholly his. The prose allows him to set up his characters and the plot, while the haikus get deeper into the emotions and themes of the novel. I have never read a lot of haikus and they have mainly been something I have had to study in school. The Peculiar Life is the first time I have genuinely enjoyed reading them and 'got' them. They really add to the story and are truly beautiful. It was also great to learn more about this kind of poetry, what the thought behind it is and what its form means! It means that after finishing the novel you haven't only read a fascinating story but also know more.

There is something magical about a book which completely takes you away for some time and brings you to an ending which is both perfect and leaves you wondering. There are a lot of things about The Peculiar Life which will leave you questioning a lot of things, in the right way. What about all these other characters or the world Bidolo lives in? I think it's a sign of a great novel when the reader becomes so immersed that all he wants to do is know more and not stop reading. Thériault pulls the reader in with just enough information and by immersing the haikus into the narrative there is something very elusive about the narrative. Props have to be given to Liedewy Hawke for an amazing translation. Not only does she manage to translate the French into English but also the haikus are stunning, which in itself already originate from a different language.

I give this novel...

4 Universes!

Thériault's writing is captivating and his mixing between prose and haiku makes reading The Peculiar Life of A Lonely Postman quite a singular experience. Not only is the plot interesting but it will also keep you on the edge of your seat. I don't think there is a specific person for who I'd recommend this since it seems to stretch across a lot of genres There is some romance, some mystery and a lot more. I am very happy that my father gave me this book and I would love for someone else to experience it!

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