The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan – Book Review

Blurb from Goodreads

How does one talk about love?

Do we even have the right words to describe something that can be both utterly mundane and completely transcendent, pulling us out of our everyday lives and making us feel a part of something greater than ourselves?

Taking a unique approach to this problem, the nameless narrator of David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary has constructed the story of his relationship as a dictionary.

Through these short entries, he provides an intimate window into the great events and quotidian trifles of being within a couple, giving us an indelible and deeply moving portrait of love in our time.

My Review

I first read The Lover’s Dictionary way back in 2011 and never thought it was a book I would return to… and yet for some reason I decided to pick it off my shelf tonight and started reading.

It’s laid out in the style of a dictionary with a list of words (going from A through Z) giving rise to descriptions that allude to a romantic love affair in non-chronological order.

And I lost myself in the words.
The emotions.
The happiness. The sadness.
The pathos of the doomed love affair… or maybe it wasn’t doomed? Maybe there was a future… but I couldn’t see it? There’s so much to interpret in this book between the short few lines yet all I could see and feel were melancholy.

I love the narrative of this book. I loved how the timeline jumped around. I loved that the narrator and his paramour remained nameless. It helped me better inhabit their world. I projected myself into the read.

And maybe that’s where my melancholy comes from because painful and all that the love affair was… I have always wanted a love affair like that. I know that’s a little girl’s screwed up dream of love… I always have romanticised doomed relationships. Stars that burn bright and fast and all that.

This review makes very little sense. But this book… it spoke to me. As I read I could recall the old heartache I had when I first read this book and realised that in the years that have followed I have let it go.

So maybe I have grown. Maybe I have learned that doomed love affairs are not the romantic ideals of my girlhood imagination and this older, wiser…and somewhat embittered version of myself has found a way to heal from what I thought could never be cured.

lover, n.

Oh, how I hated this word. So pretentious, like it was always being translated from the French. The tint and taint of illicit, illegitimate affections. Dictionary meaning: a person having a love affair. Impermanent. Unfamilial. Inextricably linked to sex.

I have never wanted a lover. In order to have a lover, I must go back to the root of the word. For I have never wanted a lover, but I have always wanted to love, and to be loved.

There is no word for the recipient of the love. There is only a word for the giver. There is the assumption that lovers come in pairs.

When I say, Be my lover, I don’t mean, Let’s have an affair. I don’t mean, Sleep with me. I don’t mean, Be my secret.

I want us to go back down to that root.

I want you to be the one who loves me.

I want to be the one who loves you.

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4 thoughts on “The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan – Book Review

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