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Four Letters of Love - Niall Williams

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Author: Niall Williams / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 11 April 1998 / Genre: Romance / Subcategory: Romance General / Publisher: Pan Macmillan / Title: Four Letters of Love / ISBN 13: 9780330352697 / ISBN 10: 0330352697

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    2 Reviews
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      01.02.2009 00:24
      Very helpful



      very well written with a story that will stay with you

      This was the second Niall Williams book that i read - his other one As It Is In Heaven - reduced me to tears in the last few pages so as soon as i saw this book in the shop, i had to have it.

      Four Letters of Love is a book which, on the face of it, is about a man trying to discover who his father was and why he chose to turn his back on his career, family, and old life and become a painter. At the same time is a secondary, but inexplicably linked, story about a girl from an island going to school in Galway and how her family copes with a traumatic accident. Whilst an unusual premise for a book, because of the skill of the author, i didn't feel like i had to suspend belief or take it with a pinch of salt. The "voice" of the main characters are ultimately believable because of the depth which comes from Williams' lyrical and beautiful writing style.

      Williams deftly writes about feelings, thoughts, emotions as skilfully as he does describe storms whipping the island where the girl lives. I felt sympathy and empathy for each character, so much so that when the two separate stories began to intertwine, the emotion that he captured and provoked was almost overwhelming at times.

      This book and As It Is In Heaven act as two parts of a whole. The style is not quite mystic realism, not quite fantasy or fairy tale but they are written in a way that makes you think "what it..." about destiny, faith and human belief. Both of these books are the best examples of his writing and I whole heartedly recommend them to people in need of an emotional and fulfilling read.


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      23.08.2006 22:45
      Very helpful




      Four Letters of Love

      A Novel


      Niall Williams


      “A breathtaking affirmation of magic, miracles and the power of human love. Read it” The Times

      I bought this book in 1998, when I lived in a little place called Ormskirk, in Lancashire. I have to admit that I had never heard of Niall Williams, and I was only in the bookshop because I had that overwhelming desire to just read Something – ANYTHING!!!! (Do you ever get that?)
      Not only that, but I have to admit to the greater sin of only buying the book because the cover looked nice. I do this all the time, and it’s very VERY bad, but I can’t help myself. The cover of my copy shows a misty sea, blue rocky headland, pale pink sky. It all looked sooooo romantic, I couldn’t walk past it.

      I think about that day often, simply because for a very long time, this book was the most beautiful book I had ever read.

      My copy is so well thumbed, has been read so many times, that the pages are soft, like very fine, worn cotton, and the corners are turned and the spine is scuffed to high heaven and it has even survived a couple of attempted drownings in foamy LUSH bubble baths, and I think it will always be a book I can dip into, read a few pages and find the whole story flooding back into my mind, taking me over.


      *****So what is the novel about?*****

      The story follows two main characters, Nicholas Coughlan and Isabel Gore – a man and a woman who are destined for each other – their lives written out like cobbled paths that cross and entwine as their fates are determined in the stars above. Ooh I’ve gone all poetic, and you know what, the book has that effect on me.

      Nicolas and Isabel are characters that are painted so perfectly in this novel that by the end you feel you know them well, and have walked their respective paths with them. You really, really care about them and the puzzle of how and if their two stories will meet and fit and become one.

      This is a story that draws you in from the start – the first lines of the book are:

      “When I was twelve years old, God spoke to my father for the first time. God didn’t say much. He told my father to be a painter, and left it at that, returning to a seat amongst the angels and watching through the clouds over the grey city to see what would happen next.”

      (Chapter 1, lines 1-5)

      Immediately, you’re captured. You might think from this opening that it is a book about religion. You could not be more wrong! But it is a book about belief systems - so not religion in the ususal sense of the word. This is not a religious book by any means, but rather one that delves into the artist’s mind, and into the grand task of being the child of an artist, trying to understand the powerful pull of inspiration, the deepness of concentration, the “awayness”. Nicholas grows up with the spell of his father’s art all around him, and in the end, it is his father’s work which follows the path with him to the rosy dawn of new beginnings.

      The unusual thing about this is that it is a love story but written by a man, and it is easily accessible by both men and women, which is strange for a piece of romantic fiction.

      What I love most about this book is Williams’ beautiful sense of lyricism – his descriptions paint pictures in the mind that stay with you long after you’ve forgotten the words. I’ve never read a novel that was so much like poetry before, and it blows you away:

      “..he walks his high frailty into the water, his ribcage and shoulders like a twisted jumble of coat hangers in an empty suit bag…”

      You immediately get a picture when you read those words, and its things like that which stay with you. The novel is written, or rather, reads, like one long poem, in a style of writing that curls and spirals through your mind like smoke. I love it!

      Four letters of Love is a novel full of passion, the passion of art and creation as much as the passion of love, and it is fuelled by this impregnable belief in fate and destiny. For a first novel it is truly inspired.

      It is a moving and emotional tale, told in an exquisitely lyrical way by a first time author (Williams has since written further novels), and I cannot fault it.

      Read it, and I think you’ll probably agree with me!



      ISBN 0330352695
      Published by PICADOR
      UK price £5.99
      First published in 1997


      Thankyou so much for reading, Kate x


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    • Product Details

      'When I was twelve years old God spoke to my father for the first time. God didn't say much. He told my father to be a painter and left it at that ...' So begins Niall Williams' magical tale about love and destiny. Nicholas Coughlan and Isabel Gore were made for each other - but fate doesn't always take the easiest or the most obvious route to true love. For a start, Nicholas and Isabel have never met and nor are they likely to, without some kind of divine intervention. But as God, ghosts, a series of coincidences and seemingly chance events and encounters conspire to bring the couple together, other - often more human - forces attempt to keep them apart. 'What will be, will be,' of course, but that doesn't guarantee a happy-ever-after ending, nor answer the question 'Will they, won't they?' Written in a lyrical, lilting tone, Four Letters of Love is a glorious, uplifting story about faith, about seizing the moment, believing in your instincts and acting on impulse - and about following your heart, no matter where it may lead.

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