The trajectory of a long life, from childhood, through the adult disappointments, through parenthood: this is what novels do best. Our fate is everything we become; yet what happens to Jules and Alva, in the hands of Benedict Wells, is dazzling storytelling... The End of Loneliness is both affecting and accomplished — and eternal.”—John Irving, author of The World According to Garp, The Cider House Rules, and Avenue of Mysteries
“Wells has constructed a probing study of self-creation and forgiveness.”—The Boston Globe
“A life-affirming work.”—Vogue
“This beautiful book—compact yet flowing, lovingly translated by Charlotte Collins, understated yet passionate—brings German author Benedict Wells, only 35, front and center among world writers. It’s both a family story and the tale of a man in search of the self he is afraid to own. When you reach the last words and set the book reluctantly down (you don’t want to leave the world it has woven), you have suffered and lost again and again, and you are smiling. In the most adult, complex, worldly sense, you’re experiencing that rarest of feats, a happy ending.”—Philadelphia Inquirer
“Superbly crafted. . . . The End of Loneliness is a character-driven exploration of love, loss and fate in an indifferent universe.”—Shelf Awareness, starred review
“Like John Boyne, Wally Lamb or John Irving, Benedict Wells has conjured a fictional world –at once epic and intimate, full of uncanny occurrences, inescapable fates, love lost and found and lost again— that quickly becomes more vivid to the reader than the real world that exists beyond its covers. Even a great book might not actually put an end to loneliness, but I can’t imagine a better salve for solitude than a novel like this, a book with the empathy, bravery, and vision to venture straight into the turbulent, vivid, interior landscapes of memory in order to reveal to us our own innermost selves.”—Stefan Merrill Block, author of Oliver Loving and The Story of Forgetting
“Touching and timeless, [The End of Loneliness] is expertly and evocatively rendered, in prose both beautiful and sparse enough to cut clearly to the question at the novel’s heart: how one copes with loss that isn’t—or doesn’t have to be—permanent.”—Publishers Weekly
“A love story and a life story, this rich and well-translated domestic drama acknowledges that some bonds are truly immutable in the face of, or perhaps because of, tragedy and that our memories and the stories we make of them, though they may change, are as real as anything.”—Booklist, starred review
“A bittersweet, intricately plotted family saga. . . . A tender, affecting novel, one that packs a lot into a slender frame.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A tear-jerker . . . it is impossible to look away from it, the unravelling, reforming lives of its characters.”—The Guardian
“Original and captivating, it's high time this German author had more work translated in to English...[The End of Loneliness]'s quiet charm in straightforward prose belies its sharp insight into the human condition.”—Stylist Magazine
“This novel has been rightfully described as something of a masterpiece. One thing is for sure — it is not easily forgotten. Heartfelt and enriching.”—Sunday Post
“With a surprising maturity . . . Benedict Wells has found a voice to describe, neither cruelly nor over-sensitively, human fragility, failure and ageing.”—Le Monde
“The writing is as luminous as the subject is dark.”—Elle, Paris
“Sophisticated . . . [Jules'] projection into kinder realities offers the novel's most literary and most immediate, emotive pleasures.”—The Irish Times
“A superbly insightful story.”—BookRiot
German-Swiss novelist Wells' fourth book—his first to be translated into English—is a bittersweet, intricately plotted family saga that centers on Jules Moreau and his elder siblings.
After their parents die in an accident when Jules is 10, he, his sister, Liz, and his brother, Marty, are sent to a boarding school, and gradually they recede from each other, drift away from the (now haunted) intimacy they shared before. Liz becomes a beautiful, enigmatic butterfly, ever elusive; the driven Marty hurls himself into his studies, seizes on a new big idea, and becomes an early internet entrepreneur. Meanwhile, the awkward, dreamy Jules wants to become a photographer (his father's thwarted passion) or a writer. Fifteen years or so later, he reconnects with his friend and chief solace from those lonely schooldays, Alva, for whom he nursed a love that wasn't so much unrequited as tantalizingly out-of-phase. She's married now, it turns out, to a much older Russian-born writer who was one of their adolescent literary idols, and Jules leaves his job as a record-company executive to live with them in a remote chalet. He and Alva resume their old chaste companionship, and her husband, whose memory has begun to fail in ways at first scarcely visible but ever more conspicuous, encourages Jules to rededicate himself to his old ambition of writing fiction. What emerges from his stay in Switzerland is a dense network of connections and collaborations, not only with Alva and her husband, but also with Liz and Marty. Some of these links are wished for, some half-accidental, some ardently chased after, some resisted or delayed or lamented or clear only after years of being obscured, but all of them are inescapable—which turns out to be a pretty fair definition of family. Wells' style is less antic than that of his admired elder John Irving, but in setting, tone, density of plot, and a streak of (occasionally heavy-handed) didacticism, the resemblances are strong.
The book's earnestness weighs it down from time to time, but overall Wells has written a tender, affecting novel, one that packs a lot into a slender frame.