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My rating: 5 stars
“I want to reveal myself to you… I need your eyes to see, your hands to touch, your spirit to acknowledge that which I hold most deeply and secretly in my heart. My yearning for you.”
It’s 1978 in a country town and a dreamy fifteen year old girl’s world is turned upside down by the arrival of the substitute English teacher. Solomon Andrews is beautiful, inspiring and she wants him like nothing else she’s wanted in her short life.
Charismatic and unconventional, Solomon easily wins the hearts and minds of his third form English class. He notices the attention of one girl, his new neighbour, who has taken to watching him from her upstairs window. He assumes it a harmless teenage crush, until erotic love notes begin to arrive in his letterbox.
Solomon knows he must resist, but her sensual words stir him. He has longings of his own, although they have nothing to do with love, or so he believes. One afternoon, as he stands reading her latest offering in his driveway, she turns up unannounced. Each must make a choice, the consequences of which will haunt them until they meet again twenty years later.
Oh I quite liked this book, how best to summarize it? It’s haunting, beautiful, poetic, sensual and melancholic, all at the same time.
Book begins with Solomon Andrews moving into town, he’s a new teacher. A free spirit, enjoying casual sex and without ever having a serious relationship or intention of one. Main female character, whose name is not mentioned, starts looking him from her bedroom window and very soon she’s bewitched. Solomon is aware of her watching, and thinks it’s just a teenage crush, but after some months and she’s still not bored, letters start to arrive at his doorstep. And they’re his undoing. Beautiful, erotic letters that he can’t resist.
So he doesn’t. The two of them start a secret affair. She thinks of him as her god, she’s 16 and completely in love, whereas he enjoys her fresh skin and innocent youth and he’s giving her an education, a sexual one, teaching her all about pleasure and secrets of sexuality.
This first part of the book was quite interesting, we see her ignorance and innocence, she’s completely unaware of how he sees her, she’s childishly obsessed with him, thinking they’re soulmates, divine and meant to be.
Then comes the second part, some 20 years later. We’re following her story of unsuccessful relationships. She could never forget Solomon, to get over him, in her mind he always stayed a god, untouched, no one compared to him. Because the only way she connected with Solomon was through sex, she seeked that with other men too. But they couldn’t give her what he could, so she’d always end up disappointed. She kept imagining, dreaming, contemplating, searching and waiting. Hoping for him to find her one day and proclaim his undying love for her.
All throughout the book MC is referred to as SHE, her name is omitted, in fact it is the last word in the book. It is a metaphor, of her trying to find, reclaim herself. After she’s married, with child, she indeed does meet Solomon again. And then she realized that what she wanted was a fantasy. How she spent all her life living with a memory.
The main reason I enjoyed this book is its writing style, so sensual and poetic. It’s a book about lust and love, about trying to find love through lust.
The only thing I liked a bit less is the MC, her blindness and inability to see the truth, all the while she’s so passive, quietly suffering and wasting her days. But I loved the ending, how the story came full circle, how she came to all the revelations by herself.