Thursday, August 23, 2012
REVIEW: Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers
This is the story of Karl, a quiet but thoughtful 17 year old who is madly in love with 16 year old Fiorella. Fiorella likes Karl, but she has concerns that he doesn't express his emotions and feelings to her and would like Karl to write down his answers to a series of questions about himself and what he thinks about love and other things.
This terrifies Karl as he suffers from dyslexia and has difficulties putting his words into writing. So, Karl asks an elderly writer in the neighbourhood to help Karl put his thoughts into writing. And what follows is a very unexpected but utterly lovely story of friendship between Karl and the unnamed writer.
Honestly, this book was just so sweetly written. I found it very odd to begin with that Dying to Know You's narrator is the ageing writer. He tells this story with little anecdotes of how old age has affected him and his perspective is that of a person towards the end of his life with Karl as this breath of fresh air that gives the older man hope, especially after the recent death of his wife. Such a mismatched pair, Karl and this man, but theirs is a friendship that I felt deeply about, almost to my surprise.
And I do so love Karl. He changes quite a bit over the course of the novel. At first, very unsure of himself and not thinking highly of himself due to the limitations of his dyslexia. I found it interesting, this focus on communication in written form, when there so many ways to communicate. But as Karl and the writer spend time together, discussing all manner of topics including love, Karl begins to come out of his shell a bit, he gains confidence in himself and his abilities and is able to express himself in a very different way.
Much of the book is the dialogue between Karl and the older man and the writing is very simplistic, there's no added flowery bits of narration. It's very much a simple account of their conversations, but I think it's beautiful in its very pared down way.
Gorgeous book, possibly not a book for everyone, with it's slow pace and the book's emphasis on this gentle affection for two people. But a book I genuinely loved.