The End of Loneliness – Benedict Wells
A book of love, loss and loneliness, with its encounters of uplifting emotion, that nourishes the heart.
At 11 years of age, the story’s narrator, Jules, and his older brother and sister, Marty and Liz, lose their parents in a car accident. They are re-homed in a boarding school with each going their separate ways and trying to adapt to this new alien world. For Jules, he despondently watches his older siblings “desert” him and he gradually starts to retreat into himself and his imagination. He makes friends with a girl, Alva, a little older than he, and she is also finding it difficult to socialise and engage with others. Over the years, their mutual loneliness and sadness are only abated as they spend more time together and strike up a close bond. These characters are subtly developed and it’s intriguing watching how they share similar traits yet are different, how they are affected by their other relationships yet have a bond that they probably can’t fully appreciate. During adolescence Jules starts to realise that his feelings are more intimate than just friendship, but will he risk losing what he has, to gain everything. He reflects that he,
“Never had the courage to win her, only ever the fear of losing her.”
The End of Loneliness takes us on a lifelong cyclic journey of love and loss for each of the characters. The issue of unrequited love is a hugely emotive aspect of the narrative and the writing style delivers this extremely delicately yet dramatically. How would life pan out if we had taken a different course?
“If you spend all your life running in the wrong direction, could it be the right one after all?”
If you spend most of your life chasing a dream, is it still a dream when you catch it, and what happens if you let the dream go? The last part of the book is genuinely emotional, especially if you have connected with the characters, which I’m absolutely sure the reader will. It’s not a dramatic romance story, but the emotional pull is much more powerful for it. Is life a zero-sum game or do some people just have more than their fair share of bad luck? The book is sad without being depressing, and it has its moments where it is inspiring and heartfelt.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton, for an ARC version of the book in return for an honest review.