Sunday 28 December 2014

Dark Review – The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman

Review written by Casey Douglass

Postmen and women are the unsung heroes of the Xmas period. Not only do they continue their regular duties in our worst weather, they also have to cope with being inundated with parcels and packages containing all manner of presents and festive goodies. It seems fitting that the book I am about to review focuses on the life of a Canadian postman as he struggles with the eternal conundrum of love in Denis Theriault’s The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman.

Secretly steaming open envelopes and reading the letters inside, Bilodo has found an escape from his lonely and routine life as a postman. When one day he comes across a mysterious letter containing only a single haiku, he finds himself avidly caught up in the relationship between a long-distance couple, who write to each other using only beautiful poetry. He feasts on their words, vicariously living a life for which he longs. But it will only be a matter of time before his world comes crashing down around him…

I will admit that the prying nature of Bilodo’s activity grabbed my interest but the mention of haiku and his desire to learn all he can about his mysterious woman Ségolène sealed the deal.

What I found in Theriault’s book was an interesting take on the way we build other people up in our minds and often prefer the excitement of fantasy, even when reality presents us with something “real” at the same time. Bilodo’s tale is one of escalation and obsession that sees him missing work and devoting days and weeks of his life to the intangibility of his mental relationship with Ségolène as the rest of his life begins to suffer.

The book had a quick pace to proceedings and was a very easy read, the manner and style of the author lending the story a simplicity that someone else might have scribbled out in favour of longer and more flowery words. The haikus add an extra dimension to the narrative and they undergo their own changes and evolve as much as Bilodo seems to. I’ll admit that I am far from knowledgeable about haikus, beyond their basic syllable structure and general traditional themes, but I did enjoy reading the ones in the book and seeing how the author and Bilodo dealt with them. Zen ideas infuse the second half of the book and things certainly take a turn for the strange near the end. To say any more would be to ruin the surprise however, so I will keep my mouth shut.

I would give The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman 4/5. The book was pacey, well written and intriguing without overstaying its welcome. It was also a little voyeuristic and sad, and has I feel, plenty to say about the issue of identity and fantasy in the modern world. You only need transpose the letters Bilodo opens to texts and tweets and you could still have the same themes running through it, although I am sure, even faster paced and with more pictures of exposed genitalia.

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman is currently in Amazon’s Winter Sale so if you are quick you can pick it up for only 99p in the Kindle Store.

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman is written by Denis Theriault and published in the UK by Hesperus Press Ltd.