A chorus of voices begins to sing out for Léon And Louise (Haus/Consortium)


Léon and Louise
Alex Capus
Haus Publishing / Consortium | 9781908323132 | $15.00 | Oct 2012

As booksellers, we are never more excited than when we discover a fresh new voice with an exciting new book to fall in love with that we can shout about from the rooftops.

I had that experience last month after I left the Consortium sales conference. I was flying home to Chicago and I had taken just one galley away from the two-day meeting: the new novel by Alex Capus coming this fall from UK-based Haus Publishing (distributed by Consortium).

Over the course of that two hour flight, I finished the novel, completely enchanted, and I sent the following email to my fellow sales reps and Consortium sales & marketing folks: 

I read Leon & Louise on the flight home today - it's a gentle story of wartime survival and love deferred. It's got a dry, whimsical, clear-headed narrative voice from page one straight through to The End … It is a delight to read, with some twists in the tale. The story goes in some interesting directions.

Romance, bicycling, boating, wartime deprivation in Paris, the vicissitudes of long marriages, a bit of forensic chemistry and the intrigues of banking all make their appearance.

Every one of us should move this book to the top of the pile. Read it and I'll be surprised if you can't immediately think of a dozen booksellers who should read this book and start talking it up this summer.

This book is a winner and we have to make it happen. It's a perfect choice for rep pick, if you ask me.

We had a lot of behind-the-scenes discussion about the book as one of possible rep pick choices for this summer’s season of selling (and it is, indeed, one of our picks). My colleague Steve sent an early galley to bookseller Geoffrey Jennings (of Rainy Day Books and Next Chapter Bookshop and Twitter), and when we saw his take on the book, more of us started to get on board with the book’s charms.

Here’s what Geoffrey sent me to include in today’s post:

The most delightful finds are the ones that are the most unexpected. Leon and Louise succeeds in keeping the core emotional bond between the characters strong throughout their separate lives. Love is a springboard, love is inspiring. A love story, a war that separates the lovers, a chance, yet brief reconnection: these are elements that have appeared in other great books. Where Leon and Louise triumphs is through the ability of Alex Capus to balance that lingering smile, that secret knowledge of a time spent together, with a rich challenging parallel narrative of the main characters. Life takes each down separate paths, but their connection transcends distance and fading memory. Leon and Louise is the type of book that you can place in the hand of a woman who wants to smile while she reads. It's a book waiting for a book club discussion (and oh, the things you could talk about). Yet, it's also layered enough to satisfy fans of wartime literary fiction. 

Highly recommended for fans of 20th century historical fiction, a beguiling tale of enduring love.

Finally, my friend and PGW sales rep Jen Reynolds got her hands on an already-read galley from a friend at Perseus while she was in New York for BEA and finished reading it on Sunday. She’s already started talking the book up with her publishing and bookselling friends. She also graciously allowed me to quote her email here:

Booksellers, readers, and fellow reps,

I read Léon and Louise (Haus, October 2012 via Consortium) over the weekend and I loved it so much that I simply have to share. It is a complete gem! Please get a copy from your Consortium rep as soon as possible, don’t tarry!

I loved it for many reasons – for its sadness and joy, for the morally-complex love story, historical scope, the letters (oh, the letters! I’m a sucker for a novel that is in any part epistolary, be still my heart!), for the perfectly-depicted moments (such as the calm in Paris before the storm and for the insider’s view during the war), great characters, and humanness. It feels in many ways (especially at the beginning) like an ironic, inverted Romeo and Juliet. The structure works so well, all the way to the end.

Booksellers, this is a trade paperback original, so you should stack it HIGH and easily and obviously sell it to anyone who adores Paris and to readers who loved Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, Atonement, 84 Charing Cross Road, A Very Long Engagement, and The History of Love (as well as more obvious ones like Corelli’s Mandolin and The English Patient).

Jen’s right. This is one of those treasures - a new voice, a wonderful read, something that we can handsell to lots of readers. The book has an amazingly relaxed and mature charm: so much happens to these characters, and yet it’s their quiet resilience and patience that leaves you struck dumb at the book’s end. 

I’m sure I’ll have more to post about this book as I get more feedback from booksellers and publishing friends, but for now, let me end by encouraging you to get in touch with your Consortium sales rep to seek out a copy of this remarkable novel right away and help us spread the word!  

If you’d like, you can send your reviews and questions and requests to me here at my3books. Use the contact form linked here. I look forward to you joining the chorus!