This book is not exactly a Valentine's Day book.
Here's the premise:
Virgil comes home from work one day to a message on his answering machine-his girlfriend is breaking up with him. This news should be devastating, but instead it's deeply troubling, because Virgil doesn't know the woman and doesn't have any memory of being in a relationship with her. The event sends Virgile into a tailspin of unrelenting self-analysis, causing him to question his memory, his sanity, even his worth as a lover.As I said, not exactly a Valentine's Day book. But, since I picked up the package from Penguin on the morning of Valentine's Day and since Will and I decided to spend part of the Valentine's Day afternoon enjoying books and lattes at a coffee shop, I cracked open the cover and started to read. It was either Virgil's existential crisis or studying for the Multi-state Professional Responsibility Exam. And, let's be honest, just about anything beats studying for the Multi-state Professional Responsibility Exam.
That is how I ended up reading half the book on Valentine's Day and then, putting off studying for another few hours, finished it off the next morning, cozy in bed on a school holiday.
I should warn you now: I am biased. I throughly enjoyed this book, cover to cover, but I'm decidedly partial to this story for the following reasons:
One: The book is quirky. I like my movies, my men, my friends, my coats, and especially my books to be quirky. I've had entirely too much conventionality in 30 years to spend time reading yet another common story (you know the ones I mean, the books whose covers have certain stale elements: high heels, shopping bags, and/or long, sexy legs). This is not a common story.
Two: The book is very Woody Allen, a self-conscious sort of comedy. Our hero is eccentric, neurotic, charmingly odd. He wears the same corduroy pants and V-neck sweater every day, watches only black and white films, and uses the same Bic pen. The character study is simply superb: light enough to be entertaining, substantial enough to be satisfying.
Three: The book is set in Paris. And not just set in Paris, but well-stocked with snapshots of Paris: rain falling on the boulevard de Strasbourg, baskets of croissants, benches along the avenues. Virgil attends parties in Paris apartments and meets friends at cafés and walks to work past the Louvre. I love Paris and I love that Virgil loves Paris and that, clearly, our author loves Paris as well.
A quirky character reacquainting himself with the idea of living while walking the streets of Paris? Perhaps not such a bad Valentine's Day read after all. Yes, not so bad, and, in fact, quite delightful.
Thanks to the very generous folks at Penguin, I'm giving away a copy of the book. To enter to win, just leave a comment below telling me your all-time favorite love story. Or, if you prefer, your all-time favorite break up story. Movie, book, play, true-life tragedy--your call. I'll random draw a winner at 5PM on Wednesday, February 24.
Update: the random number generator generated the lovely Kayla as our winner! Congrats!