“What do you call a would-be revolutionary stuck at a desk? Antsy, maybe. Trouble. A dormant volcano.”
Lucy Hull, second generation Russian immigrant to the USA and hugely over-qualified children’s librarian, is captivated by one of her regular patrons. When he appears unhappy at home and runs away, she helps him hide… a little too eagerly.
Firstly, this is an extremely quotable book. This is what happens when I read a very quotable book in hard copy:
That’s a whole of sticky tabs. More on that later.
This started very strongly (can you see that the tabs are a lot denser at the start of the book?) but sort of petered out as Lucy and Ian went on their bizarre road trip. I enjoyed both characters, and thought Makkai did a particularly good job with Ian, making him both precocious and your regulation issue annoying 10-year-old boy (“That’s the other thing about my symphony. All the piano parts would just be for your right hand.”). Lucy was fun, an apathetic Russian American, but her actions made less and less sense as the book went on.
But I invented (I hope) the word bibliographia the other day to mean books or writing about books and reading (and Sasha approved), and this comes with a hefty dose of bibliographia (many of which are responsible for the pink tabs), as well as a few bits of clever writing or gentle humour:
“I hated that I’d started to look like a librarian. This wasn’t right. In college, I’d smoked things. My first car had angry bumper stickers. I came from a long line of revolutionaries.”
“He’s so far in the closet he’s, like, back in ****ing Narnia”
“In Soviet Russia, library book checks you out”
“I refused to have bookshelves, horrified that I’d feel compelled to organise the books in some regimented system – Dewey or alphabetical or worse” (which begs the question, what regimented system is she thinking of with “worse”?)
“George Eliot and Jane Austen shared a stack with Thackeray because all I had of his was Vanity Fair, and I thought Becky Sharp would do best in the presence of ladies (and deep down I worried that if I put her next to David Copperfield, she might seduce him)”
I’m going to stop now. You get the point. But the plot was lethargic.