Ten Things I've Learnt About Love by Sarah Butler

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Ten Things I've Learnt About Love
320 pages; Penguin Press HC
This delicately told debut novel follows the story of two seemingly unrelated Londoners: Daniel, a homeless man who subsists in soup kitchens and fashions bits of brightly colored trash into flowers; and Alice, a young compulsive traveler recovering from the death of her father. What links the pair isn't clear, save for similar lists that they create at the beginning of each chapter, which touch on their separate struggles with loneliness. For example, consider Alice's "Ten things about my father's house," which includes (1) "The front door sticks," (9) "If you stare at the wallpaper in utility room for long enough, the pattern starts to look like hundreds of tiny people standing on hundreds of tiny islands," and (10) "It's not somewhere I've ever really felt at home." Compare those to some of the items on Daniel's "Ten Jobs I've held down for more than a month," which includes (3) "Labourer, southeast London," and (9) Office cleaner, White City, London. I remember all those photographs of children and wives and husbands Blu-Tacked to the edges of the computer screens." Alice's story is particularly riveting as she reels from the loss of her last living parent (her mother is already dead), the loss of her only real love (an Indian man, who is forbidden to marry her) and her difficult relationship with her two older sisters. Hers, in fact, could be a novel on its own—except that it's the mystery of how Daniel fits into her life that makes Ten Things I've Learnt About Love so compelling and, ultimately (in a way we will not ruin by revealing), so moving.
— Leigh Newman