4 out of 4 stars
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Looking Glass Friends: A Novel Inspired by Real Love Letters by E.L. Neve is much more than just a novel. It’s a dreamy weave of romance, poetry and philosophy, all at once.
It’s 1997. It is the era of missives, emails and printed books, where mobile phones are still a thing for rich people.
Neil is married to Fay but unhappy with his life choices to the point of considering suicide. Ellie is married to Jake, mother to a five year old and lives the high life.
On a day like any other, Ellie walks into the local bakery to buy cream puffs for her son. On a day like any other, Neil decides that the client on the other side of the counter is worth giving up the secret stash of cream puffs he had set aside for himself. As a way to say thank you, Ellie gifts the kind baker with a copy of her favorite book, “Atlas Shrugged”.
For those who don’t know it, “Atlas Shrugged” is a 1957 dystopian novel by Ayn Rand, whose main topic is the role of man's mind in existence. It includes elements of science fiction, mystery, and romance while dripping with philosophical themes. I have to thank E.L. Neve for introducing me to this true masterpiece that I am reading right now.
While Neil devours the book, we see him take conscience of a new, completely different vision of his flat life, which will force him to face issues till then hushed. What are you supposed to sacrifice in life? Happiness for love? Love for happiness? And the happiness of whom? Yours? Or you just do not want to wound those who love you, hence justifying your sacrifice? Are you really supposed to sacrifice something to begin with? In a tight, real-life inspired epistolary exchange, Neil and Ellie will soon find themselves completely dependent on each other, waiting for the next email like breathing air, realizing that on the other end of their eye-opening words there is someone who can fully understand them, someone who can challenge their insatiable mind. Someone who is their looking glass.
And that’s when things get complicated. Both married, both trapped in a life that doesn’t seem to make them entirely happy, can you really separate friendship from love, mind from body, soul from carnality?
I have to say I am very hard to please when it comes to writing style and it is such a rarity for me to find a book that is both fascinating and extremely well written. Neve’s writing is pure poetry, a piece of art inside another piece of art. The back and forth between Neil and Ellie’s letters, their lives, the always spot on quotes from “Atlas Shrugged”, make Looking Glass Friends one of the best readings I’ve come across in a long while.
As for the editing, I barely found a single mistake in the whole book.
It is safe to say that Looking Glass Friends deserves all the 4 out of 4 stars I am awarding it with, while recommending it to anyone who wants to read a romance worthy of that name.
To end with an outstanding quote from "Atlas Shrugged", 'It contained her pride in herself and that it should be she whom he had chosen as his mirror, that it should be her body which was now giving him the sum of his existence, as his body was giving her the sum of hers.'
Looking Glass Friends
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