[review] The Lover's Dictionary - David Levithan

Title of Book: The Lover’s Dictionary
Author: David Levithan
Publisher: Picador
Publication Year: 2012
Language: English
Format: Paperback
Pages: 211

How does one talk about love? Is it even possible to describe something at once utterly mundane and wholly transcendent, that has the power to consume our lives completely, while making us feel part of something infinitely larger than ourselves? Taking a unique approach to this age-old problem, the nameless narrator of David Levithan's The Lover's Dictionary constructs the story of a relationship as a dictionary. Through these sharp entries, he provides an intimate window into the great events and quotidian trifles of coupledom, giving us an indelible and deeply moving portrait of love in our time.  


When I first heard about the Lover’s Dictionary, the title intrigued me. Is it a dictionary or is it a novel? Turns out it’s both, kind of. It’s a novel about one man’s relationship told in the dictionary-like format. The narrator is a man whose lover cheated on him. He told their love journey in a series of words defined by their relationship. 

Ineffable, adj.
These words will ultimately end up being the barest of reflections, devoid of the sensations words cannot convey. Trying to write about love is ultimately like trying to have a dictionary represent life. No matter how many words there are, there will never be enough.

The unique nature of this book means the plot isn’t told chronologically. It feels more like a collection of vignettes. Sometimes the story moves forward, sometimes in flashbacks, and sometimes it’s a repetition with emphasis on different perspective. It’s refreshing to read a story in this format; especially romance genre can sometimes burn you out. Even this book is basically a story about a relationship between two people in which one of them cheated. It’s basic, but the way it’s told makes this book different and new.

I love the fact that we get two unnamed characters. They both have no physical description in this book. We know that the narrator is a man but his lover has no specific gender. Somehow, I still feel invested in their relationship. The anonymity also makes their story universal and relatable.  

The writing, as always, is beautiful. I’m impressed with Levithan’s lexicon. It’s poetic and quotable, reminds me of his other book, The Realm of Possibility. The only bad side of this is I had to keep a real dictionary by my side while reading this book. Yet, the Lover’s Dictionary is a book that I can read over and over. It’s perfect to read while it’s raining outside or when you’re feeling nostalgic or romantic.

The book doesn’t really have an ending. Whether their relationship survives or not is left open to interpretation. It can be frustrating to some, but as for me I see the beauty in it. Because that’s life and love, you never know what’s going to happen. All in all, I highly recommend this book.

Love, n.
I’m not going to even try.

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