The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry is a short novel about a librarian in charge of the geography section in the basement of a library in a small town in France. One morning, before the library opens, she finds a reader who has been locked into the library overnight, and the entire book consists of her monologue, as she talks to him about a variety of topics, including the role of the library in society, her love life or lack thereof, her snobbish colleagues, her reflections on French history, and the deficiencies of the Dewey Decimal system. I particularly appreciated that part, since I am working on a project on cultural bias in subject headings and classification. The narrator speaks of the ethnocentrism of the 800s, with two divisions for English-language literature, six divisions for European literature, but only one division, the 890s, for all other literature. And she talks about the hierarchy within the library, and how being in charge of the history and literature sections are considered the best jobs, but her section, geography, is one that no one wants.
Above all, two main themes emerge: the narrator’s love of books, while at the same time complaining about all the bad books that are published today, and her unrequited love for a much younger history researcher named Martin, who never notices her. This part is very poignant, and a portrait emerges of a lonely woman who finds comfort in books.
The novel can be read in one sitting. There are no chapter breaks, or even paragraph breaks; the whole book consists of one 93-page paragraph. Some readers have found this distracting, but I did not because it goes into the narrator’s mind in depth. Librarians and book lovers will find this book a delight.
The Library of Unrequited Love is available at the Hatcher Graduate Library.