I really love Leah Hager Cohen’s earlier novel, The Grief of Others, so much so that it is in my top five favourite books of all time. I have wanted to pick up a copy of No Book but the World since it first came out, and was thrilled when I finally did.
I absolutely love the story, and the way the author tells each part through the lens of different characters. I like this style very much, and I found myself really pleased with how I got to know Ava, Kitty, Dennis and Fred. I truly enjoyed the chapters from Fred’s perspective. I found that the author did a great job at bringing me into the mind of an (undiagnosed) autistic man/boy. I also really liked how it was told in both the third and first person point of view. That was different and refreshing.
It was very easy to lose myself in this story. Ava and Fred’s parents’ lifestyle was one of “free education”. The motto they live by is “Let there be no book but the world”, encouraging their children to learn through experience rather than by conventional teaching methods. It is a neat concept to imagine people diving into.
I loved this book right up until I got to the last ten pages, Ava’s final confession. It reminds me of those times when my favourite TV show would say at the end, “It was all a dream”. It wasn’t exactly that situation, but gosh, it was darn close. I wish I hadn’t read the last ten pages because it sullied the entire novel for me. I have suspicions as to why the author chose to go the route she did, but it doesn’t make the book feel better for me.
One other thing that I found tough was the repetition of certain descriptors. I found the description of characters’ eyes as “chicory” to be rather nice and different at first, but after the fifth or sixth time, the description lost its charm.
I wanted to give this book four stars because I truly loved the story, but the last ten pages won’t allow me to do so. I would gladly, however, recommend this book to anyone who loves an emotional, character-driven novel about family, friendships and the way we each perceive the world differently.