Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The End of the Alphabet - C.S. Richardson

Summary: The End of the Alphabet is a tender, intimate story of an ordinary life defined by an extraordinary love.

Ambrose Zephyr is a contented man. He shares a book-laden Victorian house with his loving wife, Zipper. He owns two suits, one of which he was married in. He is a courageous eater, save brussels sprouts. His knowledge of wine is vague and best defined as Napa, good; Australian, better; French, better still. Kir royale is his drink of occasion. For an Englishman he makes a poor cup of tea. He believes women are quantifiably wiser than men, and would never give Zipper the slightest reason to mistrust him or question his love. Zipper simply describes Ambrose as the only man she has ever loved. Without adjustment.

Then, just as he is turning fifty, Ambrose is told by his doctor that he has one month to live. Reeling from the news, he and Zipper embark on a whirlwind expedition to the places he has most loved or has always longed to visit, from A to Z, Amsterdam to Zanzibar. As they travel to Italian piazzas, Turkish baths, and other romantic destinations, all beautifully evoked by the author, Zipper struggles to deal with the grand unfairness of their circumstances as she buoys Ambrose with her gentle affection and humor. Meanwhile, Ambrose reflects on his life, one well lived, and comes to understand that death, like life, will be made bearable by the strength and grace of their devotion.

C.S. Richardson’s lovely prose comes alive with an honesty and intensity that will leave you breathless and inspired by the simple beauty and power of love. The End of the Alphabet is a timeless, resonant exploration of the nature of love, loss, and life.
Summary from book, photo from

My Review: This is the short tale, (just 117 pages), of Ambrose Zephyr, a man who has a great love for the alphabet. Upon learning of his imminent death, Ambrose plans a trip comprised of places from A to Z that he has long desired to see. While following Ambrose and his wife, Zipper, on their final journey, the reader is granted a glance into their past serene life. The book is too brief to become connected with these two main characters, however this glimpse into their history proves that their love is undeniable strong, providing the novel with a very sensual feel.

Though I appreciated the author's play on the alphabet, I would have to caution that this novel teetered on the edge of trite. For example, Ambrose's initials are A.Z. married to Z.A., and T is for a tower in Paris. However, Richardson's elegant writing style saves the story. Redemption comes full swing in the final chapters when Ambrose realizes that his quest to achieve his dreams was previously fulfilled by Zipper's love.

My Rating: 3 Stars

If I had to sum it up in one phrase: A short, yet quietly intense love story.

1 comment:

Kim R. said...

Sounds interesting. I wonder what gave the author the idea for such a odd twist on the alphabet? I may try this, the review intrigues me...


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