Monday, June 15, 2009
The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson
The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson is a small little novel about the last month of a man's life with his loving wife. The two (Ambrose Zephyr and Zappora Ashkenazi, "Zipper" for short) live a simple and happy life in London. After being diagnosed with a terminal disease and only a month (give or take) to live, he decides to spend his last days traveling the world. Since the alphabet has nearly as many letters as there are days in a month, Ambrose whisks his wife off to one city per letter, such as "A is for Amsterdam, B is for Berlin..."
My favorite aspect of this novel was its linguistic simplicity. The story itself was complex with emotion and plotline; the characters zigzagged across Europe, and there were just as many flashbacks as there were "present-day" scenes. But the language was not over-embellished. The sentences were short and to the point, though they never felt choppy because they always contained a nugget of something special.
Luckily, readers spend the entire novel (from page one, essentially) preparing for Ambrose's death, otherwise I would have blubbered all the way through the conclusion. What starts out as a man's shocking diagnosis turns into--as the chapters proceed--an exploration of his wife's ability to deal with losing her husband. I thought this was one of the most beautiful books I've read this year, along with one I finished last week--The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa. The End of the Alphabet is a fast and meaningful read, and one that most definitely will stick with me for years to come.