Monday, January 25, 2016

Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books
Release Date: January 26, 2016 (tomorrow!)
Source of my copy: publisher
Synopsis
An internationally bestselling romantic comedy for fans of The Rosie Project, about a language-loving bachelor and the cat that opens his eyes to life’s little pleasures

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.


Initial Reaction
A cat changes a lonely person's life? Gimme!
Plot
Samuel led a boring, lonely life that pretty much alternated between his assistant lecturer job at the Department of German Studies and Linguistics and his apartment. But a cat at his door on New Year's Day became a catalyst from his solitary, monotonous existence to meeting a cast of interesting characters and maybe even to his long-lost love, Gabriela.
"Love in lowercase?"

"It's when some small act of kindness sets off a chain of events that comes around again in the form of multiplied love. Then, even if you want to return to where you started, it's too late, because this love in lowercase has wiped away all traces of the path back to where you were before."
Characters
Samuel was our main character and I liked him right away. He was a very smart, and since we're in his head the whole novel we really get a lot of his idiosyncrasies. He loves classical music, literature, and foreign films and there was a lot of mention of specific books, movies, and music. Yes, he was kind of an awkward weirdo, but he was an easy character to root for. He mused over Mendelssohn, Goethe, The Misfits, Kafka, The Good Person of Szechwan, among others and I just ate it up. I love it when books include a lot of literary references and characters in books ponder about or discuss literature and art (especially ones I am know about) because I see them in a different light or a different perspective. There was a lot of that in Love in Lowercase so I was in reading heaven. It took me longer to read it because I was googling for more information or to validate what was being said in the book pretty much as every other chapter.
"You've used Buddha's words to explain yourself."

"You see? I'm hopeless. That's what I mean. I have to unlearn everything I've learned and go back to being a normal person. Culture is just background noise that prevents me from seeing life as it really is. Culture makes no one happy. I want to be a simpleton or a wise peasant who knows when it's going to rain and goes to bed and wakes up when the sun sets and rises."
The secondary characters, mainly Titus (Samuel's neighbor), Valdemar (a man he met at a bar), and Gabriela were all interesting on their own. However, with the exception of Titus, I didn't find the other two nearly as likable. Valdemar was kind of a creepy conspiracy theorist, and we didn't really get to know Gabriela enough. Since we're in Samuel's point of view we really only know what he knew about her, which wasn't much. There was a point in the novel where I was hoping that Samuel would hook up with the veterinarian Meritxell instead of Gabriela. I really think they're a better match. I got the impression than Gabriela had a complicated past and wasn't quite ready to be in a relationship that Samuel was hoping for.

As for Mishima the cat, he wasn't nearly in the novel as much as I thought he'd be. This is not a owner-and-his-cat story--with the exception of the first ten or so pages and the chapter called "Treatise on Feline Philosophy" (one of my favorite chapters), Mishima pretty much stayed in the background. Rather this is a story of self-discovery for Samuel with Mishima only acting as the stimulus that forced him to step outside his lonely existence.
"Cats are said to be selfish, but in reality they're just smart... They don't go looking for love and therefore obtain it without asking. Dogs have a master. Cats have servants."
Writing Style/Pacing
Love in Lowercase was originally written in Spanish and was translated in English. I can only speak of it in its translation, but I found the novel to be lighthearted, amusing, and so quotable. If I was the type to highlight my books, this one would be filled with highlights. The novel was divided into five parts and each part was broken into short, somewhat episodic chapters (some even reads more like essays), with the overarching plot of the romance. Each chapter had a title and I really enjoyed how they gave hints of what's to come in the short chapters. Love in Lowercase was fairly short at only about 220 pages, but the pacing was on point. It didn't feel too long or too short, and by the end (despite the "happy for now" ending in terms of Samuel's relationship with Gabriela) I was satisfied.

This novel is being compared to The Rosie Project, so if you enjoyed that novel you might enjoy this one. I can't really say since I haven't read The Rosie Project but you might consider Love in Lowercase if you're looking for a read-alike.
"...when we talk about building blocks, letters, or atoms, what matters is who arranges them and what use is made of them. In other words, what we are isn't important. What we do with what we are is important. Hours are worthless unless you know what to do with them."
Final Thoughts
Love in Lowercase was not my typical read, but such an engaging, delightful story that I had a hard time putting down. It kind of reminded me of the movie Amelie--not in plot, but in tone. How they're both feel-good romantic comedies with quirky characters that had me smiling and cheering by the end.

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