The book I'm reviewing today takes place in the summer, so prepare to be transported away from the bleak white world!
It’s was a rainy Saturday and I decided to curl up on my wide pea green chair. Its arms were out to embrace me as I plunged into the depths of a new book. A book with hues of blue on the cover that speaks of death, love, life, books and everything in between. It may sound like a John Green novel (and I do like some of his books and support him in his writing and video-making; plus he’s even referenced in this book), but this book has more to it. It is haunting and comforting, funny and melancholic, fiction and non-fiction.
Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley is told from the points of view of best friends Henry and Rachel. Henry and his family own a bookshop that also contains a Letter Library, which is a section of books where people are free to write in them. People talk to each other through the books’ notes and they leave letters as well. Rachel is in love with Henry and decides to tell him on a day where everyone in their grade is celebrating the end of the world because they were reading Ray Bradbury in English class. Rachel leaves a letter in a book she knows Henry will read in the shop. They were supposed to spend that night together, but Henry spends it with the girl he’s in love with, named Amy. Rachel is moving the next day and since Henry never writes to her about the letter once she’s left, Rachel is upset and gradually stops writing to him.
HAUNTING AND COMFORTING
For three years, Rachel is living her life by going to school, writing to her friend Lola back home and even gets a boyfriend. But in her third year, the drowning of her brother, Cal, changes her whole world. She and Cal were crazy about the ocean and they had planned to travel together. Rachel discusses her brother throughout the book and with the excerpts from the letters left by people in the Letter Library, it’s a world of ghosts. Even the book itself is a ghostly imprint of Cath Crowley, or any book for that matter.
Rachel finally opens up to Henry when she returns to her hometown and he helps her make sense of her feelings with the books in his shop as well as his own insights. Henry’s parents hire her to catalogue the Letter Library and to record all the notes from people in every book for the inventory; they’re considering selling the shop since second-hand bookshops are not doing well in this digital age. As she transcribes, Rachel stumbles across notes left from Cal. She needed to find him and it’s from this point on that she starts to heal and see things differently. Originally, Rachel doesn’t see the point in cataloguing the notes in the books; since Cal’s death she admits that she doesn’t care about or have patience for the uselessness of things in life. In finding her brother in the Letter Library, she understands what Henry’s father meant when told her, “it’s really a library of people,” (122).
I enjoyed finding the repetition of the color blue and seeing the different meanings associated to a single color. For instance:
- water (life/death dichotomy)
- Rachel’s eyes
If Rachel’s narration was made into music, I think it would sound like Dido's “My Lover’s Gone":
I also enjoyed the many references to old and new books and television shows, such as 42 being the meaning of life from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Rachel and Henry watching Being Human and discussing the existence of ghosts. I could relate to this book on so many levels. It felt like home.