The End of Loneliness
by Benedict Wells
Translated by Charlotte Collins
Formats available: Paperback, Electronic, Audio
Pub Date: 1.29.19| 272 pages
REVIEWER: Sophia Rose
Finished copy provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
From internationally bestselling author Benedict Wells, a sweeping novel of love and loss, and of the lives we never get to live
“[D]azzling storytelling…The End of Loneliness is both affecting and accomplished — and eternal.”—John Irving
Jules Moreau’s childhood is shattered after the sudden death of his parents. Enrolled in boarding school where he and his siblings, Marty and Liz, are forced to live apart, the once vivacious and fearless Jules retreats inward, preferring to live within his memories – until he meets Alva, a kindred soul caught in her own grief. Fifteen years pass and the siblings remain strangers to one another, bound by tragedy and struggling to recover the family they once were. Jules, still adrift, is anchored only by his desires to be a writer and to reunite with Alva, who turned her back on their friendship on the precipice of it becoming more. But, just as it seems they can make amends for time wasted, invisible forces – whether fate or chance – intervene.
A kaleidoscopic family saga told through the fractured lives of the three Moreau siblings, alongside a faltering, recovering love story, The End of Loneliness is a stunning meditation on the power of our memories, of what can be lost and what can never be let go. With inimitable compassion and luminous, affecting prose, Benedict Wells contends with what it means to find a way through life, while never giving up hope you will find someone to go with you. https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/600398/the-end-of-loneliness-by-benedict-wells/9780143134008/
One of my bookish resolutions for 2019 was to read more World Literature and then, serendipity, I was introduced to The End of Loneliness; it’s set in Europe and written by a German author. Wundershon!
I read this as a translated work and thought the translator did great with the fabulous understated work by the author because I meant to only read a little and ended up devouring the book in two sittings. Oh, the melancholy and the tears, but so worth it.
The End of Loneliness introduces Jules the youngest Moreau child as the narrator of a story about his life and that of his estranged siblings after the tragedy of their parents’ deaths in a auto accident. Jules gives his impressions of his family before the crash and then what it was to be separated to boarding schools and feel not only the loss of his parents, but what Jules perceived as the abandonment of his older siblings, too. He meets Alva whose sister died so they become friends in their grief. Jules grows to love Alva, but it is unrequited and the book shares how he and his siblings go on coping with what life hands them even though his sister yearns and grasps for more out of life. There is also a sense that there is more to the past and more to Jules’ own accident that landed him in the hospital to reflect on the past. Looking back, he can see the hints that things were definitely not what they seemed.
Now, while I said this was a melancholy story, it wasn’t an utter drag that gutted me. It was introspective and the writing created a tone that kept the reader going and hoping that these people would catch a break and get a dream or two come true. I was struck by how I felt an affinity to Jules and his family even though my own life and family experiences are very different. This is what kept me reading and hoping. The romantic in me wanted Jules to get his second chance with Alva, but more so see the estranged siblings come to an understanding.
In the end, it was a beautiful, sad story set against the Europe of the early eighties and told how grief can tear apart a family and mutual understanding and acceptance can- maybe, eventually- pull them back together.