I received this book for free from First to Read in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Love in Lowercase by Francesc Miralles
Published by Penguin on January 26th 2016
Genres: Fiction, General, Humorous, Literary, Romance
Format: Electronic ARC
Source: First to Read
We shape the world in our own measure, and that soothes us. Under the apparent chaos, maybe there really is order in the universe. However, it certainly won’t be our order.
Samuel, a lecturer in German Studies, wakes up on New Year’s Day expecting the start of another lonely, unexciting year, same as all the years before. But this year, a stray cat paws at his door and starts a chain of events that changes the way that Samuel approaches life. Love in Lowercase is written by Spanish author Francesc Miralles and has been translated into English by Julie Wark.
Science depresses me. It’s a terrible thing to be a bunch of atoms waiting to be disassembled. I find no consolation in knowing that they’ll recombine to form a pile of manure or, if I’m lucky, a patch of mushrooms.
I selected this book because the cover immediately made me think of The Rosie Project. That was the intended effect because it is described as a “romantic comedy for language lovers and fans of The Rosie Project.” There are similarities between the two, but Love in Lowercase is a much quieter and philosophical novel.
We all start dying the day we’re born, but there are lots of rebirths along the way.
Both books have a light atmosphere and eccentric characters. Both Samuel and Don are lonely and seeking human connection. That is where the similarities end for me. Samuel is a logical, intelligent and slightly awkward man. He has a few personality quirks, but it is not full-blown Asperger’s like Don. The Rosie Project had over-the-top situations and was more laugh-out-loud funny, whereas Love in Lowercase is about one man’s quiet little life and got a few smiles out of me.
“A Czech writer. Sorry, we teachers have the bad habit of lacing our conversation with literary references, which is a pretty stupid thing to do.”
“Why is it stupid? It’s always good to learn something new.”
“Up to a point it is, but knowing too much can be very awkward. Valdemar’s a good example of that.”
“Who’s Valdemar? ”
“It’s better not to know.”
“So according to you, nobody should know anything!”
“OK, Buddha once said that knowledge should be like a boat. You can use it to get across the river, but once you reach the other side it’s absurd to keep lugging it with you. Do you know what I mean?”
“You’ve used Buddha’s words to explain yourself.”
“You see? I’m hopeless. That’s what I mean. I have to unlearn everything I’ve learned and go back to being a normal person. Culture is just background noise that prevents me from seeing life as it really is. Culture makes no one happy. I want to be a simpleton or a wise peasant who knows when it’s going to rain and goes to bed and wakes up when the sun sets and rises.
This book has a lot of cultural name-dropping and many summaries of other books. The main character is an isolated intellectual, so books, foreign movies, and classical music are his main frames of reference. The author did a good job of summarizing the works and making it easy to relate them back to the plot, but it did venture into How to Read Literature Like a Professor territory too much for my tastes.
My favorite book that Samuel reads is They Have a Word for It: A Lighthearted Lexicon of Untranslatable Words & Phrases, described as “an odd dictionary of expressions that exist in only one language.” The title of this book actually comes from a term that Samuel coins. Samuel describes love in lowercase as “when some small act of kindness sets off a chain of events that comes around again in the form of multiplied love. Then, even if you want to return to where you started, it’s too late, because this love in lowercase has wiped away all traces of the path back to where you were before.” I am having a little bit of trouble attaching the term love in lowercase to the concept described above, but I understood the connection a little more when I read it rephrased in this way: “Sometimes love is hiding in the smallest characters.”
Thousands of candles can be lit by just one candle, and the life of that candle will not be shorter because of it. Happiness is never diminished by being shared.
The cat was my favorite character! Mishima has so much personality and is a total scene-stealer when it appears. Samuel is an easy character to empathize with. He experiences frustrations and humiliations while becoming more open to relationships and experiences and I felt that pain with him. I did enjoy traveling around Barcelona with him, as he visits various shops and cafes.
Someone once said that, when you fall in love, you’re not really in love with the person but with life through that person.
I was really disappointed with who Samuel ended up with in the end. View Spoiler »I got really attached to one of the characters who showed up in the beginning, even though she only appeared briefly! It was hard to cheer for the end result, because it seemed as if he was in love with the idea of the woman more than the actual woman. « Hide Spoiler
Let us be thankful, for if we have not learned a lot today, we have at least learned a little; and if we have not learned a little, we have at least not fallen ill; and if we have fallen ill, we have at least not died, and for this we are thankful.
The book has a great message. It is about being open to new experiences and letting life in and about how the smallest actions can cause huge consequences. The number of cats I follow on Instagram has also gone up significantly since I read this book. If you like quiet books filled with cultural references and ruminations on the meaning of life and how to live, you will probably enjoy this book.