I’ve been so tired this week that I haven’t finished my current ready yet. Luckily I already had a book ready to review, so I didn’t have to rush to finish something. Hourglass was my final read of last month and one that I’d had my eye on for a while. I’ve not read any of Keiran Goddard’s poetry but I do love a verse novel. Plus, it looked absolutely gorgeous and was going to be a super quick read. Basically, my perfect book.
I’m sure there will be many people who don’t appreciate this novel and I understand it. Hourglass is as much about the style as it is about the substance. However, I think the style only makes the narrative more substantial. If it’s a struggle to get used to the format then that’s only because it’s a struggle to see things from another person’s point of view. Especially somebody who sees the world in the way our narrator does. The style works to strengthen the idea that this is a very unique story and it might take a bit of effort to be able to engage. Like life, if you’re willing to put in the work then you’ll find this story is all too familiar. A story about love.
Normally, I’d be put off a book that was described as a love story. Especially a modern love story. It just puts me in mind of certain books that I didn’t get on with. This one proved too difficult to ignore and I’m incredibly pleased that I got over my stubbornness. Yes, this is a love story but it’s so much more than that. This is a novel about a universal experience told in a beautifully poetic way. Spoiler alert: it’s not a story that ends with a happily ever after. This is a modern love story where nothing really goes well.
It is split into 3 sections: boy meets girl; boy and girl grow apart; boy tries to get over girl. Although, it’s not quite as simple as all that. It is told from the point of view of an unnamed man who lives an odd life. He writes bizarre essays that he tries, unsuccessfully, to get published in various magazines. She is an editor who actually likes one of his pieces. She has also written four slim books that very few people have read. The pair start seeing more of each other and eventually fall into an awkward love. Until she falls out of it. Leaving our narrator alone in that place in-between love and heartbreak.
What is so wonderful about this story is that it is so familiar. Yes, the characters may be a bit odd but who can’t understand that feeling of loving someone who no longer loves you? A feeling that is paradoxically unique and universal at the same time. When you find yourself in a dark world that you don’t think you’ll ever get out of but a world that so many people have been in at some point. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything that manages to capture that feeling in such a perfect way. The narrator is extreme but he represents something that most people will be able to empathise with.
He is one of the all-too-familiar socially inept narrators that we see in books everywhere these days but he is also the best narrator for a story like this. He has such a blunt but witty way of speaking. You could sort of fall in love with him despite being well aware of just how difficult it would be living with him. He has such a unique worldview and approaches problems in a very original way. Whether that is cutting holes in his t-shirt so he can attend a funeral or behaving inappropriately in public. Though his behaviour makes perfect sense to him and, for a little while, to her. That is what makes the first third of the book so perfect. You see two people who just understand each other. But you slowly start to realise it’s not all as perfect as it seems.
That is what love basically is. Finding somebody who understands you and fits into your world. A world that Goddard expertly creates. The language in Hourglass is utterly mesmerising. It isn’t quite a novel nor is it poetry. Rather, it sits somewhere in the middle. The narrative plays out as you’d expect but there is a lot of artistic licence and lyricism along the way. Written as a stream of consciousness, it takes you on an emotional journey that feels very human. There is plenty of disgusting and uncomfortable description. It’s a very sensory experience that draws you in. You get the feeling that you’ve stepped inside somebody else’s world. You get to experience love and the aftermath of love from somebody else’s perspective.
I’ve never read a book like this and I am obsessed. It captured me from the start and definitely won’t leave me any time soon.