4 / 5 Stars
An exploration of first love and your place in the world.
Owen is 17, a loner, but doesn’t want to be. It’s easy to conform and hide when you don’t know who you are. He meets Natalie, bright talented and quirky, who thinks he is too. They become friends. They have deep, personal, and philosophical conversations, but can they accept themselves (and each other) for who they are? If they can find the courage to do that then anything may be possible.
This is a little gem I discovered recently, a very short novella of 133 pages by the awesome Ursula K Le Guin. Le Guin’s 'The Wizard of Earthsea' was my first proper introduction into fantasy as a young teen, and is revered and heralded by many. This novella is a very different tale, a little slice of life and an intelligent exploration of friendship and first love.
It’s a simple, low key coming of age story, but as we know, there is nothing simple where first love is concerned. Owen and Natalie were a bit too clever for their own good, and I didn't really like either of them! However, their relationship and their worries, resonated heavily and made me cast my mind back... There is sadness and hopelessness and a sense of isolation that pervades throughout, while they try and find their place in the world. Probably everybody could find themselves within these pages.
It is, of course, beautifully written, massively insightful and, despite being written in the 70’s, the themes of love, friendship and coming of age transfer well and hold true. Just like 'Catcher in the Rye' with Hayden Caulfield, this is possibly a book to be read when younger, so that the reader can relate to Owen's angst, and his first love, a little better.
The writing and the story is beautiful. It’s charming and sad, and the themes impactful and still relevant 50 years later.