Every month, we shine the light on a book from our collection – one which is new to the library, which has been particularly enjoyed by a borrower, recommended by a volunteer, or which seems salient to the month’s events or happenings. To see the archive of past books of the month (formerly book of the week), click here.
The current book of the month is…
February: The Love I Do To You by Mariah Whelan
Valentine’s Day this month, and what’s more romantic than a sonnet? The poetic form most often associated with romance, Shakespeare’s sonnets drip with eroticism, Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella gushes with adoration, describing an ethereal world where love reigns over all.
Mariah Whelan’s ‘The Love I Do To You‘ is a different kind of sonnet sequence. Taking the genre and its expectations, this is a modern love story which opens with running away from a city and running away from a relationship. The book follows ‘He’ and ‘She’ as they tell their alternating sides of the story. Their lives weave in and out of each other while they try to stay geographically and emotionally apart, the relationship tangling across borders and oceans and years.
It’s as much about trying to find one’s place in the world as one’s place with someone else. The sense of place is striking throughout the book, the use of maps and each title situating the poems geographically. While ‘He’ and ‘She’ travel from the north of England across Asia, Whelan evocatively conjures the Tyne in Newcastle, a seedy bar in South Korea, a fish market in Tokyo slipperingly and viscerally described. You feel the characters exploring their internal worlds as they explore the external, the feeling of being a tourist in one’s own life, seeking to belong.
This is a sonnet sequence which explores love from a less idealized angle: across countries, beyond the cosy confines of a relationship, through one-night stands, trying to figure out being exes and friends or friends with benefits or whatever two people can become after the happily ever after turns out not to be a bit more complicated, but the intimacy remains. Food for thought, this Valentine’s season.