2015 · Book Reviews · Fiction · Grief · Romance

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman, Denis Thériault

Published: 2015 by Hesperus Press | Pages: 128

Secretly steaming open envelopes and reading the letters inside, 

Bilodo has found an escape from his lonely and routine life as a postman. When one day he comes across a mysterious letter containing only a single haiku, he finds himself avidly caught up in the relationship between a long-distance couple, who write to each other using only beautiful poetry. He feasts on their words, vicariously living a life for which he longs. But it will only be a matter of time before his world comes crashing down around him…

I discovered this title while browsing the shelves in Waterstones (Covent Garden branch). The cover grabbed my attention immediately as the subtle, simplicity of the cherry blossom really stood out amongst the bright, busy titles surrounding it. This had been on my ‘to read’ list for almost a year, but I’ve only just got around to reading it! (Oops, my bad!)

So, this book is a bit different to the types I usually go for – abstract, intense and captivating. Thériault manages to cover so much ground emotionally and psychologically over quite a small amount of pages and words. By focusing on Haiku (a type of Japanese poetry, usually consisting of 17 syllables) he creates a viewpoint for those audience members who have creative tendencies. Not to give away any spoilers, but those of you who are more technical regarding literature will no doubt notice use of Haiku structure throughout the text. This aspect was extremely clever, even though I did cotton on to it pretty quickly (damn literature degree!).

I would argue that this is a tragic love story slowly hashed out through poetry and Bilodo’s life. You realize that this is indeed a very lonely postman as in the run up to the climax of the book, he totally cuts himself off from the outside world and his job. Something that at first seemed innocent and possibly sweet, has turned into an obsession. I think this book makes you look at what seems to be a normal adult going about his life, in a new light. As human beings we do have little secret lives that we hide away.

It is obvious that Bilodo is aware of his ‘peculiar’ obsession as he desperately tries to hide the poetry as well as the picture of the woman he is so in love with. Thériault harshly conveys the cruelty of people regarding Bilodo’s peculiar past time. As soon as his seemingly only friend discovers the picture of Bilodos’ beloved, our main character seems to go from a romantic, if not slightly odd member of the general public to a victim of people’s ignorance. He is teased and pranked, which not only shows the shallowness of his work colleagues but also conveys Bilodo’s vulnerability and lack of confidence in his everyday life.

Overall Thériault’s protagonist and his layering of haiku structure and plot line make for something quite wonderful and unique. If you want a quick, different type of read, I would definitely recommend this. Possibly not a universal favourite, but my inner literature nerd adored it!

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