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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of The Lonely Hearts Book Club by Lucy Gilmore

I love a book about books, but I was confused as to why the characters would seek out and spend prolonged time with the verbally abusive, acerbic, angry Arthur.

Sloane is an underappreciated librarian running things and doing all the behind-the-scenes work without complaining. She adores books and reading, but her emotional passion for literature is a negative in the eyes of her boss.

Arthur McLachlan is a grumpy elderly patron who regularly excoriates the staff and insults them.

Sloane's personal life is lacking, and Arthur clearly seems lonely. Could the two forge some type of unlikely bond?

Not if Arthur has anything to say about it.

The Lonely Hearts Book Club is a sweet story about unlikely friendships with a side of book talk, but I found myself impatient through it all.

Sloane's fiancé Brett and his family are presented as largely silly and obnoxious: his chiropractor status is continually ridiculed when he calls himself "doctor"; his pleasant family pushes Sloane around regarding the wedding plans; his mother indicates that he's marrying below his station. Brett is not unkind, but he's condescending, discounts Sloane's opinion, ignores her concerns, and makes decisions for both of them. (Late in the story he seems surprisingly thoughtful and insightful, however.)

I was frustrated by various characters' inabilities to stand up for themselves. Maisie is one of my favorite characters, but she struggles with her self-esteem and seems open to verbal abuse and bad treatment. Sloane puts up with being repeatedly taken for granted at work, and I was frustrated by her smiling willingness to put up with Arthur's hateful comments, then frustrated with everyone else as they seemed willing to do the same, without any reason presented for them to do so.

Gilmore presents late chapters from the points of view of different characters, allowing insights otherwise not available to the reader. Yet by that point I was fully irritated by Arthur's careless cruelty--and others' eager exposure to it morning and night. The fact that he might ultimately speak truths seems irrelevant when his manner has been so consistently off-putting. Who would have stuck around to find this out? Who would give him the benefit of the doubt so many times? Who would be brought to tears and then move in to help him, without his having shown remorse, reflection, insight, or feelings?

The motley crew bonds over books, although the book feels more focused on the oddly immediate intimacy between unlikely friends.

The idea that the group would even consider asking Sloane to shift her life plans in order to stay local seemed absurd. They may have made judgments about Brett and her faulty decision-making--she doesn't share her own feelings on these matters with any of them until quite late--but this all came across to me as more infantilizing than caring.

This is light fiction, and I typically love a book about the love of books, but I couldn't buy into the premise or the building bonds, so I felt disconnected from the story.

I received an audiobook edition of this book courtesy of Libro.fm and Dreamscape Media.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

If you like light fiction stories, you might like the books on my Greedy Reading Lists Six Lighter Fiction Stories for Great Escapism and Six More Great Light Fiction Stories.




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