Sunday, February 26, 2012

Review: The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

I've read a few books written entirely in dictionary entry format and thoroughly enjoyed them so was curious to read this one about love and relationship. Just what words can explain love, make it knowable to people beyond the two involved together? Written alphabetically, the story is not presented in a linear fashion and the main characters are not named. The assumption is that the lovers are a man and woman (a pregnancy is mentioned once although whether facetiously or not is debatable). There are other small clues scattered throughout the text about the realities of the relationship as it develops, endures, stumbles, and ultimately ends. Some of the words Levithan uses to describe the couple and their life together are mundane while others are emotional. And the definitions illustrating each word can be surprising, truthful, and clever.

The writing here is well done and smart but there's a distance in the narrative that makes it hard to connect viscerally with the tale being told, to share in the giddiness of new love or to share in the outrage of betrayed love or to experience any of the mountains or valleys between these two. The focus is entirely on the two unnamed characters together, not on history and so a complete picture of either of them never quite gells. And without a completeness in character portrayals, there can't be a completeness about their relationship either. A slight, quick read, this is very much a private rumination, thoughtful, and reflective but there's something missing, some part of the heart that would have elevated it from good to great.


  1. I've seen so many overwhelmingly positive reviews of this book so it is nice to read a more balanced review.

  2. I love an epistolary novel, but never seen one written as a dictionary. The concept sounds interesting enough, if a bit gimmicky perhaps. I'd like to browse a copy I think.


I have had to disable the anonymous comment option to cut down on the spam and I apologize to those of you for whom this makes commenting a chore. I hope you'll still opt to leave me your thoughts. I love to hear what you think, especially so I know I'm not just whistling into the wind here at my computer.

Popular Posts