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This week’s topic is 2021 Releases I Was Excited to Read But Didn’t Get To. Here are just some of the 2021 releases in my TBR pile that are hoping to get a look-in in 2022 and saying to themselves, ‘Please don’t let us be on the same list next year’. Links from the titles will take you to the book description on Goodreads.
Do you write a letter to the woman who left you – and post it to an imaginary address? Buy a new watch, to reset your life? Or get rid of the jacket you wore every time you argued, because it was in some way … responsible?
Combining the wry musings of a rejected lover with playful drawings in just three colours – red, black and white – bestselling author of The Red Notebook, Antoine Laurain, and renowned street artist Le Sonneur have created a striking addition to the literature of unrequited love. Sharp, yet warm, whimsical and deeply Parisian, this is a must for all Antoine Laurain fans.
Format: Paperback (192 pages) Publisher: Gallic Books Publication date: 18th January 2022 Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Literature in Translation
Red Is My Heart is one of those books that looks simple on the surface but repays a slow reading to appreciate its subtlety. The musings of the narrator following the end of a love affair are communicated in a reflective manner but with a wry humour and incorporating subtle wordplay, skilfully preserved in the translation by Jane Aitken. One of my favourite examples was the narrator’s cheeky comment about the book’s illustrator, street artist Le Sonneur, ‘His art does not last and serves no purpose’.
The narrator finds reminders of lost love in everyday objects such as a watch, a ‘his and hers’ keyring or a jacket. Through some sort of twisted or desperate logic he blames the latter for the failure of their love affair. He even clings to the memory of their relationship through the unlikely vehicle of an airport tannoy announcement. The book also details the slow, painful process of discarding memories of a relationship whether that’s in the form or photographs or gifts.
There’s very little text, some pages containing only a single paragraph or a few sentences. However, what text there is uses different fonts, different sizes of text, words in bold, etc. to reinforce the meaning of the prose. Some of the text is printed upside down or at right angles meaning the reader has to physically manipulate the book to read the words. This is definitely not a book that could be appreciated in digital format!
The illustrations are a brilliant companion to the text, especially striking because of their use of only the colours black, white and red. The illustrations pick up on elements in the narrator’s musings – such as a ladder – or act as metaphors for separation, such as the scattered pieces of a jigsaw puzzle or a small, lone figure looking out from a balcony surrounded by a sea of houses. The repeated motif of a red dot that gets smaller and smaller, always remaining out of reach, seems to reflect the growing distance between the narrator and his lost love. Does the quirky keypad on a door and a red dot that increases in size towards the end of the book suggest the possibility of a new relationship? Perhaps he was wise after all to give away that unlucky jacket!
Leaving aside the writing and illustrations, Red Is My Heart is a work of art in itself, from the embossed front and back covers to the French fold jacket. My thanks to Isabelle at Gallic Books for my advance review copy of this little gem of a book.
In three words: Touching, playful, imaginative
Try something similar: Together by Luke Adam Hawker
Antoine Laurain is the bestselling author of six previous novels, including The President’s Hat, a Waterstones Book Club pick which won the Prix Landerneau and the Prix Relay des Voyageurs, and was adapted for television, and The Red Notebook, which featured in the Duchess of Cornwall’s Reading Room, an Instagram book club with over 100k followers. His novels have been translated into more than twenty languages, including Arabic and Korean. A writer, journalist and antique collector, he lives in Paris.
Le Sonneur is a contemporary Parisian artist. His work tells the story of Paris and the people who live there. His artwork is often placed in public spaces with an invitation to passers-by to interact with the work, for example by picking up a key or calling a telephone number. As well as in Paris, his work has been exhibited in Tokyo, Berlin, Melbourne and Dubai. (Photo/bio: Publisher author page)