The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman

9781843915362_p0_v1_s192x300Denis Theriault’s The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman surprised me.  

 Bilodo, a Montreal postman, secretly opens other people’s mail before delivery, and lives vicariously through their hand written letters.  When he opens the letters between Ségolène, a young woman in Guadeloupe (a French territory in the Caribbean) and  Grandpré, a local professor and poet, he is immediately caught up in the exchange.  

Anticipation of the letters offers Bilodo a respite from his dreary life, but when the poet is killed in a car accident, Bilodo despairs.  To keep the epistolary exchange going, Bilodo takes a leave of absence from his job as a postman.  He assumes Grandpré’s identity, moves into his apartment, and continues to write to Ségolène.  

Since the poet has only written in haiku, with Ségolène responding in kind, Bilodo must learn how to write this traditional Japanese poem.    At first, his attempts are pedestrian but he improves as the story continues.   As the letters fly back and forth, growing more and more ardent, two incidents threaten to interfere in the intrigue and the budding love affair. The first is resolved, but the second was quite a surprise.

The book is short and compelling and the ending is a shock that I did not see coming.  Although the book has been compared to work by Julian Barnes (possibly for the strong impact through a short work), the ending reminded me of Kafka.  

Originally published in 2008 in Canada, and recently republished by UK’s Hesperus Press, the book is not in my library’s collection.  Since the book is a testament to writing actual letters, it seemed ironic I could only find the ebook version.

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman is worth looking for and reading: I enjoyed it.  It may inspire you to sit right down and write a letter, as you consider which persona you will use to wield your pen.

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Writing Letters

One of the best effects of electronic communication is the gift of staying in touch with friends who are far away. Yet, receiving a letter that has my name hand written on the envelope still gives me a thrill. When I see that postmarked missive, all the bills and senseless ads are shoved aside. I can’t wait to read the note inside, and the newspaper clippings from my old hometown that someone who knows me so well has included. I can forget my nagging worries; a friend has cared enough to write – to me.

Because I created this site as a vehicle to both review and remind myself of books I’ve read, I am reminiscing about favorite epistolaries – books written as a collection of letters:

“Daddy Long Legs”
“84 Charing Place”
“The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society”

Do you have a favorite? And how long has it been since you sat right down and wrote a letter?