We all have them — those books and movies that we cannot imagine living without. I know some people try to come up with a top-10 list of their DIKs, but I can’t think about mine in terms of numbers. If I were in a situation where I’d have to limit my DIKs to a certain number, then we’d have to take some anthologies to that desert island in order to get all my favorites included.
I started thinking about a DIK list when my “new” copy of Love Is a Four Letter Word arrived from Abebooks. I already own one that I bought from the UK but, unfortunately, it’s still in storage. So when I had a real craving to re-read the book, I found a cheap copy from a bookseller in Canada. How cheap? The shipping cost more than the book, that’s how cheap.
Love Is a Four Letter Word is not famous. It is not a classic. It wasn’t written by an author (Claire Calman) who will be remembered hundreds of years from now. But it is still one of my favorite books of all time. There are parts that are laugh-out-loud funny, and there are parts that make me break down and cry. And it’s not just me. Everyone I’ve ever lent it to has adored as much as I do (and several of them have purchased their own copy), and the blurb on the back of this newly purchased Canadian edition says:
Reviewers and readers alike found themselves laughing one minute and reaching for tissues the next as they got caught up in this emotional rollercoaster of a novel, a funny yet unexpectedly poignant tale of love, loss and letting go.
…Love Is a Four Letter Word is a perfect marriage of style and substance.
There are a lot of twists and turns in the plot — you start reading and think you know where the story is going, but then all of a sudden, you realize that Calman has taken the story in a totally other direction. But by then you’re hooked, so you keep reading.
Bella Kreuzer is a Londoner who moves to a smaller city where she only knows her friends Viv and Nick. She has a new job and a new house…and old memories. Her former live-in boyfriend, Patrick, is out of her life, and she is having a very difficult time moving on. The new house has a garden that is currently unattractive but which does have possibilities, and she hires landscaper Will Henderson to help her out. She and Will have an instant rapport, but Bella’s memories of Patrick (and — as we can see, but she can’t — her problems with her mother) get in the way of the relationship going any further.
I am fully aware that my description of the story makes it sound rather dry, but I really can’t tell you any more without giving too much away. But I can say without hesitation that this book is worth reading. Oddly, Love Is a Four Letter Word reminds me of both Persuasion and Truly, Madly, Deeply, two other favorite stories about learning how to move on with your life. If you aren’t conversant with British slang it might be somewhat less enjoyable, but the Internet is a wonderful thing, and you can always look up words that aren’t familiar. I implore you not to let that get in the way of reading this truly beautiful book.