Tag Archives: Libraries

The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry

The Library of Unrequited Love

Translated by Siân Reynolds, this short French novel is an amusing soliloquy in the voice of a librarian. She finds someone who has been locked in overnight, and variously scolds, enlightens and lectures them on literature, subject hierarchies, book classification, and her secret crush. Stuck in the Geography section in the basement, she wishes to been allowed to work on History or Literature.

Here’s my favourite passage: ‘To know your way around a library is to master the whole culture, i.e. the whole world.’ As with previous best-sellers, I intend to tell you what I thought of it through the incisive prompts of the ‘Reading Group Questions’, which have be so thoughtfully provided in the back pages.

1. What did you think of the fact that the person found in the library is never named or described? Did you imagine the librarian was talking to you, or did you have a picture in your head of the listener? For some reason, I felt she was talking to a male person, so no, I didn’t feel like she was talking to me, despite the lovely use of second person throughout. I think it’s a great device, as essentially the person is anonymous to her too, which is why she feels she can monologue freely.

2. Did you understand the librarian’s infatuation with Martin? Do you think she will ever speak to him about her feelings? Martin is a man who comes in regularly. All she knows about him is what he reads. It’s rather romantic, but essentially a flight of fancy. She will never speak to him: she is too shy, and it could shatter her imaginary ideal of him, which I think she sometimes enjoys. For example, she refers to a chair he never sits in as ‘Martin’s chair’ as that’s where she would like him to be. It’s a more satisfying image than the reality could ever be.

3. What do you think of the library as the setting of a love story, unrequited or otherwise? I think it’s charming. There are the clues to their personalities in the books they’re looking at; the stolen glances across the quiet study room; the light repartee that can be sparked by literature. There’s nothing more attractive than a firm grasp of the Dewey Decimal System. If I had a pound for every time someone asked me out in a library, I’d have £1.75.

4. The librarian has mixed feelings about her confinement to the Geography section. Which sections of the library would you never visit? I’m not very enamoured with local history; there seems to be a vast section of that, presumably due to the kind donations of local authors, who don’t realise that five other people have already written a guide to the history of cycle paths in their village. Food also fails to excite me. That said, I’m always open to suggestions.

I very much enjoyed all ninety-two pages of this witty and clever musing verging on diatribe. Have you read it? What did you think? Which sections of the library do you never visit? Comments please!

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My First Library

starry ceilingThe library of my childhood was a Gothic Renaissance mansion, designed in 1856 by Sir George Gilbert-Scott, the genius who designed the Albert Memorial in London. As a small child, I didn’t know this, but I loved the painted ceilings, particularly the starry sky, and I loved to run my fingers along the intricate marble fireplaces. It was a many-roomed house with heavy carved doors and close corridors. There was a whole room for the children’s section; I’m sure I read almost every title from those packed, colourful shelves. I was often unwell as a child, and those shelves provided a significant proportion of my education. It also gave me joy, escape and a safe place to be.

We visited weekly, at least, choosing books to read every night at bedtime. As well as providing the reading list of my youth, they provided my favourite hobby: library club. At library club, I was allowed to play at being a librarian. The real librarians, with their infinite knowledge and patience, took us behind the scenes, taught us to repair old books, stamp and issue titles, and gave me a pretty strong grasp of the Dewey Decimal System, that is, for an eight year old. 


The secret world of the library fascinated and delighted me; one of the happiest moments of my childhood was getting my young librarian certificate. 

Few places have had such a profound effect on my life. A couple of years ago, it fell into disrepair and closed its doors forever. I returned for one final visit to say goodbye. It broke my heart a little. 

The town has a new library now: it’s well-resourced, central and generally excellent. Yet, sometimes, I still miss my first library.


What was your first library like? I’d love to know! Share your memories in the comments below. 

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This post was inspired by National Libraries Day, which I urge you all to get involved in. Find out what’s happening in your local library on Saturday 8th February here


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What Libraries Can Do For Authors

I wholeheartedly agree with Jorge Luis Borges: “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”

Libraries are an asset to every community, and particularly to writers. The following facts apply to British libraries; services may vary elsewhere.

In terms of research, the library is invaluable. Did you know that you can order any book from any other library and have it delivered to your local branch? This includes The British Library‘s excellent stock. Most libraries also have links to local history centres; helpful library staff will be able to guide you to the right resources. 

Members can also use the Internet for free in most areas and take advantage of the many subscription services the library is signed up to. In my local area these include: Encyclopaedia Britannica; Gale Vault (an archive of newspapers from the 1700s to the present, including the full Times archive); and The John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Library.


Image by Grant Snider

Once your beautifully researched masterpiece is completed, the library can help you with promotions. Most will happily run author events: you can do a reading, a Q&A and/or an interactive session. Local authors are particularly welcome. I’ve been to a few and they’ve always been very well attended. The staff will usually help you to sell copies at that event too (especially if you donate one to the library)! If you do give a copy to the library you will also be paid every time your book is borrowed.

The library: an invaluable research resource; a promotional venue; a way to reach more readers. Every author should use their local library to its full advantage.

What experiences have you had with your local library? Have you held an author event? I’d love to know! Tell me in the comments.

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