When Samuel, a lonely linguistics lecturer, wakes up on New Year’s Day, he is convinced that the year ahead will bring nothing more than passive verbs and un-italicized moments—until an unexpected visitor slips into his Barcelona apartment and refuses to leave. The appearance of Mishima, a stray, brindle-furred cat, leads Samuel from the comforts of his favorite books, foreign films, and classical music to places he’s never been (next door) and to people he might never have met (his neighbor Titus, with whom he’s never exchanged a word). Even better, Mishima leads him back to the mysterious Gabriela, whom he thought he’d lost long before.
In the spirit of The Solitude of Prime Numbers and The Guest Cat, Love in Lowercase is a charming and uplifting novel about how one man, thanks to a persistent cat-turned-catalyst, awakens to the importance of the little things in life—and discovers that sometimes love is hiding in the smallest characters.
The book comes across as quirky and fluffy, and I could have rated it higher if it weren’t for one gigantic sticking point: the narrator is in love with a woman who he only met once during his childhood, when they were kids and hiding under the stairs together. And then by chance, he sees her crossing the road one day (how do you even recognize someone 30 years later?!) and decides he is unbelievably, irrevocably in love with her.
He sets out to try find her, and becomes a tad single-minded for my liking. I mean, he doesn’t even know this woman apart from the basics, but every interaction leaves him with dramatic thoughts.
In just over an hour I’d see Gabriela again. The mere thought of it made my hands break out into a cold sweat and my pulse race. Seeing her again earlier today had been almost physically painful, and at the same time I had experienced a feeling of vertigo, as if I were about to fall into an abyss and she was the only thing I could cling to. Right then, I thought I’d die of grief if I had to give her up.
Seriously? I suppose I could stomach it better if it weren’t so obviously one-sided, but quite frankly it reads more as obsession. Call me a cynic, or a practical romantic, but I have no time for affected infatuation.
Indeed, there are times when the MC realizes he’s pressurised Gabriela, or made her feel uncomfortable – but only after he’s already done it. You don’t get a cookie for realising that. Decent men shouldn’t do that to begin with. In fact, it’s downright unacceptable, deliberately not giving her an out so you can get your way, even though she’s clearly awkward with the situation. It’s fairly innocuous here, but this kind of nice-guy entitlement mentality is a helluva lot more sinister in real life.
I enjoyed the parts that weren’t focused on the romance – the style is fairly easy to read, and the book was quite short. The background characters suffer though, from not being fully fleshed out. I would have appreciated greater insight into cryptic neighbor Titus and the utterly strange, possibly deluded Valdemar. Love interest Gabriela remains fairly one dimensional. Even the cat had more personality. Gabriele is merely a prop for our narrator.
When people are lonely, they amuse themselves in very strange ways.
At times the book was fairly profound, but other times I found it pretentious. I liked the various obscure literary references scattered in, but only because they were stories I hadn’t heard of before. When I started the book, I really did think the opening chapters were delightful – and as I said, this would have had a higher rating if it wasn’t for the issues I outlined above.
Finding the name for something means ensuring its existence. We think and behave in certain ways because we have words to underpin what we’re doing.
ARC received from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from uncorrected proof and may differ from final publication.