Ten Things I've Learnt About Love

( 5 )

Overview

About to turn thirty, Alice is the youngest of three daughters, and the black sheep of her family.  Drawn to traveling in far-flung and often dangerous countries, she has never enjoyed the closeness with her father that her two older sisters have and has eschewed their more conventional career paths.  She has left behind a failed relationship in London with the man she thought she might marry and is late to hear the news that her father is dying.  She returns to ...

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Ten Things I've Learnt About Love: A Novel

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Overview

About to turn thirty, Alice is the youngest of three daughters, and the black sheep of her family.  Drawn to traveling in far-flung and often dangerous countries, she has never enjoyed the closeness with her father that her two older sisters have and has eschewed their more conventional career paths.  She has left behind a failed relationship in London with the man she thought she might marry and is late to hear the news that her father is dying.  She returns to the family home only just in time to say good-bye.

Daniel is called many things—"tramp", "bum", "lost."  He hasn't had a roof over his head for almost thirty years, but he once had a steady job and a passionate love affair with a woman he’s never forgotten.  To him, the city of London has come to be like home in a way that no bricks and mortar dwelling ever was.  He makes sculptures out of the objects he finds on his walks throughout the city—bits of string and scraps of paper, a child’s hair tie, and a lost earring—and experiences synesthesia, a neurological condition which causes him to see words and individual letters of the alphabet as colors.  But as he approaches his sixties his health is faltering, and he is kept alive by the knowledge of one thing—that he has a daughter somewhere in the world whom he has never been able to find.

A searching and inventive debut, Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love is a story about finding love in unexpected places, about rootlessness and homecoming, and the power of the ties that bind.  It announces Sarah Butler as a major new talent for telling stories that are heart-wrenching, page-turning, and unforgettable.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Maria Russo
…Butler's lists have a surprising emotional resonance…They represent her two narrators' anguished and perhaps futile efforts to organize the sad and turbulent parts of life in an intrinsically chaotic city called London…And they are only the surface layer of a carefully structured story that invites and even requires puzzle-solving…This is a novel deeply committed to unfinishedness—the characters speak in sentences that trail off, plot points are left to be guessed at or pieced together. As a literary technique, the elliptical style is enormously effective, keeping the narrative in a constant, trembling state of tension…There are a few things in this book that frustrate, but there are many more than 10 to love.
Publishers Weekly
Alice, the youngest of three sisters, has felt oddly disconnected from her family since the death of her mother when she was four. Leaving her father and siblings and a failed romance in London, she sets out to travel the world, wandering from place to place until her sisters summon her home because their father is dying of pancreatic cancer. Alice is adrift and unsettled, unable to communicate her love to her father before he dies, and self-conscious about her choices when compared to her sisters. Alice alternates narration with Daniel, a 60-year old homeless man whose heart troubles are causing him to revisit his past, including the affair he had with a married woman. As Alice moves forward, cleaning her deceased father’s house and making peace with her sisters, Daniel works up the courage to approach her. The relationship they build is unusual, and Butler’s elegant prose—interspersed with thoughtful lists, such as “Ten things I know about my mother” and “Ten foods that stress me out,” written by Alice and Daniel—makes this a moving debut. Agent: Andrew Kidd, Aitken Alexander Associates (U.K.). (July)
New York Times Book Review
Butler's lists have a surprising emotional resonance. They represent her two narrators' anguished and perhaps futile efforts to organize the sad and turbulent parts of life in an intrinsically chaotic city called London, circa right about now. And they are only the surface layer of a carefully structured story that invites and even requires puzzle-solving. This is a novel deeply committed to unfinishedness—the characters speak in sentences that trail off, plot points are left to be guessed at or pieced together. As a literary technique, the elliptical style is enormously effective, keeping the narrative in a constant, trembling state of tension, which gives the lists a grounding effect. This and the charming, gritty and appropriately damp view of London nearly devoid of any Cool Britiannia elements make for a novel that often evokes strong feeling. ...There are a few things in this book that frustrate, but there are many more than 10 to love.
Library Journal
Daniel and Alice, a father and daughter who have never met, tell their stories in alternating chapters, each beginning with a quirky list reflecting its narrator's current state of mind. Daniel lives on the street, having lost his way in life after Alice's mother ended their affair years before. Alice, who knows nothing of Daniel, has been called home to London from a sojourn in Mongolia to the bedside of the father who raised her and whose subsequent death enables Daniel to find the child he has been searching for over the years. It also sets Alice off on a reexamination of her relationship with her father and disapproving older sisters, the boyfriend she left behind, and her own vagabond ways. Daniel's tentative first steps toward a meeting with Alice involve a series of anonymous offerings made from objects found on the street, leaving her to puzzle over their significance. VERDICT The London-based Butler's poignant first novel has a distinct sense of place and sympathetic characters who have much in common. Recommended for all audiences. [See Prepub Alert, 1/6/13.]—Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont.
Kirkus Reviews
This soulful debut unpacks a family enigma involving a wandering daughter, a homeless father and their tenuous family ties. The title might promise another light romantic romp about a footloose young woman in her late 20s. However, English newcomer Butler has greater gravitas in mind. The top 10 lists strewn throughout point to increasingly somber subjects: a mother's early death, infidelity, a father's death from cancer, and elder sisters who are both fervent and ambivalent in their affection for their much younger sibling, protagonist Alice. Summoned home from Mongolia to the bedside of Malcolm, her dying father, Alice is also forced to revisit London, the site of a traumatic rupture with her Indian lover, Kal, whose family wants to arrange a marriage for him. After Malcolm's passing, sisters Tilly and Cee hint at what Alice has suspected since her mother's death when she was 4 years old: She is viewed as an interloper in the only family she has ever known. Meanwhile, in alternating sections, Daniel, a homeless man, scours London for the daughter he fathered during a long-ago affair but has never met. Daniel's plight stems both from the disastrous legacy of his gambler father and from an auto accident that bankrupted him. All he knows is that the woman he is searching for might have red hair, like her mother, and is named Alice. Delicately, through the accretion of telling details, the reader learns that Daniel's Alice and our heroine are one and the same, but Alice thinks her father has just died. When, while helping another destitute man reconnect with his lost child, Daniel happens across Malcolm's obituary, complete with relatives' names and the location of memorial services, he realizes his quest may soon be fulfilled if he has the courage to gamble. Improbably but convincingly, his initial diffident overtures to Alice take the form of mini art installations. Spare language and an atmosphere of foreboding will keep readers on tenterhooks. Whimsy and pathos, artfully melded.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594205330
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 7/11/2013
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,389,658
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah Butler is in her early thirties and lives in London.  She runs Urban Words, a consultancy which develops literature and arts projects that explore and question our relationship to place. Ten Things I've Learnt About Love is her first novel and will be published in twelve languages around the world.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 8, 2013

    I absolutely loved this book and was sad when it ended.  It's no

    I absolutely loved this book and was sad when it ended.  It's not action filled or fast-paced, but the writing is honest and thoughtful and the characters are believable.  I wish she had written more that I could read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2013

    Ten things I've Learnt about love

    inferior book. Not well written

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  • Posted August 22, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Good read

    I really enjoyed this book. Written in a unique style. Really liked Daniel.

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  • Posted August 22, 2013

    so-so story

    not great------but everyon e likes different stories.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews

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