A Note in the Margin

A Note in the Margin - Isabelle Rowan image

If someone named this book to me the first word that would come to mind would be “meh”. It didn’t wow me, I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t like it either. Maybe the most approximate adjetive I could give is “boring”.

This is one of the most dead books I’ve ever read in my life. There was no emotion here, everything was bland and grey and tasteless. It felt like watching bad actors playing a script they have just learnt. It all felt unnatural and uninspiring. I need to feel the character’s lives are stimulating, not because they are assassins or celebrities or astronauts, but I need to feel some kind of excitement even in the most anodyne of existences.

I didn’t feel it here.

John is a super perfect guy who quits a stressing job and moves to own a library that makes by far less money. I couldn’t understand how someone so used to the best of the best would accept a simpler life with no difficulty at all. Once there, he begins some kind of affair with Jamie, the shop’s owner’s son. Just because.


David… I don’t know how to judge him. It’s obvious he has some kind of disability but I have no idea which! He spends the whole time reading or drawing in the library, he lives in the streets and works as a whore part time. I don’t know why the former shop’s owner accepted him. I have no idea why the shop’s owner’s son accepted him. And, even more, I’m clueless as to why John eventually accepted him. I saw nothing that could lead to someone loving David with none of a question. It was just… done. Seen him, loved by everybody. No preambles. I get David has problems, but his past is something that doesn’t fit this present: he had some kind of a lucrative job, he had a wife, he has a son he misses. And now… nothing. WHY? This is something of importance but here was considered a minor detail. It’s not!

I have to admit the author is very brave. She didn’t use bad guys or a murder or a higher motive to keep the story moving. She just had the characters, and no one of them gave much of a problem. In fact, all of them were good people. But those stories are the most difficult to write, and the author failed completely. When there are only two people on scene, you have to create some kind of chemistry and wonder to keep it interesting and electrifying. But there was no chemical environment and no exhilarating emotion that precedes and comes after falling in love. Here everything was written with the same and repetitive musical note, no variations and no melody. So when John shelters David in his house I couldn’t understand that need of sleeping together or that yearning to make love. It felt more like a duty than a thirst or a longing. It felt like they had to do it in order to follow the script rather than due to true feelings. All in all, that there was NOTHING there I could identify with love.

I ended this story feeling completely flat. I expected some kind of fireworks before beginning the book and when I finished reading that last page I thought: “Is that everything?”. There are a lot of holes, in the argument, in the character’s development, in the style (I was going nuts with that eternally changing POV), and the one that annoyed me the most: in the feelings. It all was, by the book, an empty shell.

What I did like, weird it is, is to see how living as an indigent is. The shelters, the risks, the cold, the hunger... we have a glimpse of that and it reminded me of the movie The Pursuit of Happiness:


I wouldn’t remember this book if not for the fact that it was so meh I always compare the other meh books with this one to know how to classify them in my shelves. It's sad but it's true.