by Suanne Laqueur
Okay, so here I am, day #1 post AEoL and still haven’t wrapped my mind around the incredibleness of it all. But it’s going to be live at midnight (Yay!), so I feel like no matter my emotional state, I need to write something. I want to write this review. I just don’t know how to make the novel justice. Thus why I decided to proceed with order, lest my fangirl self takes over and I end up writing a rambling review no one except me will understand.
Let’s start from the beginning. This is not normally the kind of book I would read. Sure, there’s romance in AEoL, but it’s not NA, or contemporary or whatever other label we use for those novels.
If I only had one word to describe this book, to make you understand what this novel is about, I would say: life.
An Exaltation of Larks is life, at its rawest, ugliest and happiest. It’s joy, companionship, utter desperation and all the little things that make our days what they are. It’s the details and the huge feelings that accompany us through decades of our lives. It’s the unresolved question in us.
I started reading it not sure one hundred percent I would like it, because of what I already stated about the genre. Sure as hell, I didn’t expect it to have such an impact on me. At first, I had to adjust. To the style, to the narration, to everything, because this book is so… true, it hurt sometimes to read. Especially at the beginning, for someone like me who’s used to know every trope out there and who wasn’t finding any of them in here, it was kind of debilitating. The question “where is this heading?” kept bouncing in my brain.
Then something shifted. I don’t know exactly when, but at a certain point I understood all I had to do was to lay back and enjoy the ride. And oh, my, what a ride it was!
The book is divided in four sections, and it follows the intertwining stories of different characters, who are brought together by coincidence or fate in different moments of their lives. I absolutely adored the way these people kept finding each other. I also bookmarked a quote about it:
Here, you lost your family, so I’m putting this guy back in your life. He’s supposed to be here. You’re meant to be around him. He’s not Roger who comes and goes. He’ll always be close. A friend who speaks all your languages. The guy who’s always where you need him to be. When you need him.
My favorite sections of the books were the last two. The first two I needed to get acquainted with all the characters, to adjust to the otherworldly awesomeness that is Laqueur’s style and to get into the story, but in the last one I really got to enjoy every dynamic, every word and interaction. All the characters are finally together and the tapestry that they form, interweaving their existences together, was pure bliss.
Every character was special and so rounded it seemed impossible for them not to be real. I loved each and every one of them because of their complexity and because of their raw realism. Laqueur writes life the way it is. She writes about parents who love their daughter but sometimes don’t like her because she’s an annoying teenager, she writes of an escort who’s not ashamed of what he does, who enjoys his job and doesn’t see anything wrong with it. This novel is not some romanticized version of a delusional reality in black and white.
I think this is one of the things I loved the most. The nuances, the multiple shades of love portrayed in this book, and the confusion that was an innate part of some characters. Especially of my favorite character: Jav. His existence is characterized by this confusion regarding his sexuality, but honestly it feels reductive to only talk about sexuality. Jav is such a complex character. A little broken, a little lost, with such a huge heart that he’s so afraid of opening, with good reasons. His struggle tore him apart, ate at him, but it was his life so you could also see the resignation and the moments of “let’s risk it”, “let’s take this chance.” It was inebriating to see him going for what he wanted and, even knowing that things sometimes couldn’t be, it left me with some bittersweet taste in my mouth, of the good kind, when things turned out they way they did. As I said, it’s life.
Those who know me know that I’m not a crier, but something happens at a certain point, regarding him and a certain captain, that had me on my knees emotionally. This books was so honest, and especially at the end when I had already fallen in love with each and every one of the characters, that while I was reading it I felt like the first layer of my skin had been peeled away and I was over-sensitive.
Another matter worth mentioning are the plot twists and ah-ah moment. There were so many and all so good. Laqueur has this way of twisting the strands of this tapestry together in such a way that you never see them coming, but when they happen you suddenly realize it all makes perfect sense. It was so satisfying! Also with the names Larks, Trublood, and many other I will not list not to spoil even the tiniest of surprises to you, it was an exceptional way to balance fate, coincidence, destiny, and poetic prose.
One of the strong features of this novel, maybe the strongest, is the prose, the flawless, unique, I-could-spend-the-night-waxing-poetics-about-it prose. I’ve never quite read a book like this in my whole life. The images, the metaphors, the recurring themes and words that you didn’t give much thought to the first time around, but then were spun again for another round maybe hundreds of pages after the first mention and they took a whole new meaning. The writing was utter perfection and it filled me with warmth and satisfaction. It’s readers’ heaven.
Charming, Jav thought, while his fingers turned a page in his notebook and picked up a pen. His looks had an old world, pagan charm. Some invisible promise of luck, long life and good fortune clung to him like gold dust. His smile was a gift from the gods and you wanted it to shine on you, include you and keep you in the warm, rough palm of his hand. “Hold the baby,” women said, not because they needed a favor, but because they wanted a blessing.
This is one of the sentences at the beginning. I kept marking my favorites before I understood there were just too many and gave up.
At times, the word purple prose popped up in my mind while reading, but then I checked its meaning and found out its definition has a bad connotation. Still, I would define her style as exquisite purple prose. Never excessive, never surreal. Perfectly balanced between thoughts, dialogues, descriptions. Every word was a perfectly fitting piece of a jigsaw puzzle that composed a masterpiece.
In conclusion, this book has it all. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made my soul soar and crash down. It stomped all over it and then pieced it back together and offered it a cookie. It was a completely pleasurable read that stroked all my strings and inner corners of my heart. It’s the kind of book that stays with you, the kind of book you wish everybody would read so that you could stop random strangers down the street to chat about it.
At times, I felt like I hadn’t lived enough to completely understand it, to soak it in one hundred percent, but nonetheless I would recommend to everyone. It’s one, if not the most outstanding story I’ve ever read and I can’t wait to embark in other voyages written by Laqueur.