Butler's lists have a surprising emotional resonance. They represent her two narrators' anguished and perhaps futile efforts to organize the sad and turbulent parts of life in an intrinsically chaotic city called London, circa right about now. And they are only the surface layer of a carefully structured story that invites and even requires puzzle-solving. This is a novel deeply committed to unfinishedness—the characters speak in sentences that trail off, plot points are left to be guessed at or pieced together. As a literary technique, the elliptical style is enormously effective, keeping the narrative in a constant, trembling state of tension, which gives the lists a grounding effect. This and the charming, gritty and appropriately damp view of London nearly devoid of any Cool Britiannia elements make for a novel that often evokes strong feeling.
Maria Russo - New York Times Book Review
Graceful and subtle...love, in all its shape-shifting complexity, is at the core of this novel; that and the consequences—good and bad—of keeping secrets.... The shifting and intricate dynamics of family life, and the vertiginously painful feelings of loss induced by relationship breakdown and bereavement, are written with imaginative precision. This is a thought- as well as emotion-provoking novel.... It also sparkles with hope.
Lisa Gee - Independent (UK)
It’s obvious from pretty early on where this is heading and Sarah Butler doesn’t try to disguise that, concentrating instead on the subtle and difficult interactions of family...life, before finding another increasingly suspenseful plot thread that has the reader racing towards the end. It all adds up to a moving and satisfying debut.
John Harding - Daily Mail (UK)
This poignant novel about fathers and daughters, homecoming and restlessness, is also a love letter to London… Butler has viewed the city in all its weathers and moods, and this shines through on every page. Equally elegant are her observations of the emotional turmoil of her main characters as they pace the capital’s highways and byways, united by a secret… A moving, life-affirming debut.
Marie Claire (UK)
Alice...sets out to travel the world, wandering from place to place until her sisters summon her home because their father is dying of pancreatic cancer. Alice is adrift and unsettled, unable to communicate her love to her father before he dies... [She] alternates narration with Daniel, a 60-year old homeless man whose heart troubles are causing him to revisit his past. The relationship they build is unusual, and Butler’s elegant prose...makes this a moving debut.
Daniel and Alice, a father and daughter who have never met, tell their stories in alternating chapters, each beginning with a quirky list reflecting its narrator's current state of mind. Daniel lives on the street, having lost his way in life.... Alice, who knows nothing of Daniel, has been called home to...the bedside of the father who raised her and...sets Alice off on a reexamination of her relationship with her father and disapproving older sisters.... Butler's poignant first novel has a distinct sense of place and sympathetic characters who have much in common. —Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont.
Ten Things I've Learnt About Love explores the intricacies of familial relationships and what an individual is willing to sacrifice to preserve the relationships and the people in his or her life. Combining detailed storytelling with character-revealing lists of 10 things her protagonists have learned to treasure, Butler establishes herself as a talent to watch.
Carla Jean Whitley - Bookpage
Butler's graceful debut explores life's heartbreaks, unexpected family bonds, and the search for home.... [The] narrative's controlled suspense and unanswered questions make for a satisfying tale.
The top 10 lists strewn throughout point to increasingly somber subjects: a mother's early death, infidelity, a father's death from cancer, and elder sisters who are both fervent and ambivalent in their affection for their much younger sibling, protagonist Alice.... [I]n alternating sections, Daniel, a homeless man, scours London for the daughter he fathered during a long-ago affair but has never met.... All he knows is that the woman he is searching for might have red hair, like her mother, and is named Alice.... Spare language and an atmosphere of foreboding will keep readers on tenterhooks. Whimsy and pathos, artfully melded.
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