Firstly, the book itself is very pretty indeed and looks lovely on my bookshelf. I do judge a book by it's cover, I can't help it I'm afraid. This is the story of a postman called Bilodo who lives and works in Montreal, Canada and the novel has been translated from French to English.. Bilodo is a very isolated character, he doesn't have any real friends to speak of and he doesn't like to socialise with anyone. His only 'friend' is another postman Robert, who is mean and crude to him, always trying to get him to go out getting drunk, going to strip clubs and meeting women.
Bilodo's very favourite pastime is to steam open other people's letters and read the contents, something he knows he should not be doing, but he likes to live his life through the words of strangers. His favourite letters to read are between a woman called Ségolène from Guadeloupe and a man called Gaston Grandpré who is a published poet. and lives in Montreal. They write single Japanese Haiku to each other which although Bilodo doesn't really understand them , he finds her words beautiful. He begins to fall in love with Ségolène and her touching poetry.
During a normal working day, Bilodo is witness to an awful accident where Gaston Grandpré is run over in the street. He is clutching a letter he wanted to post to Ségolène . Bilodo tries to retrieve the letter but it goes into the gutter before he can get hold of it. This begins the downward spiral of Bilodo and his obsession with the woman he has never met. He eventually manages to move into the apartment that Gaston Grandpré lived in, with all his belongings and writings still there. he begins to write haiku himself and starts to correspond with Ségolène, pretending to be the deceased poet.
If you are a fan of Japanese fiction when tends to mix reality and symbolic, metaphysical elements then you will probably like this. If you like poetry, especially haiku, then this would be a very interesting read as Bilodo begins to learn the art of haiku and immerses himself in the practice. He becomes obsessed with perfecting it so that his beloved will not realise he is an impostor. The novel is written beautifully and you really sense the overwhelming obsession that overtakes Bilodo as well as learning all about haiku. I really liked the ending and it certainly brought a supernatural element to the novel which I normally expect from Japanese fiction. I have to admit that I am not a big poetry fan and some parts with lots of haiku I did glance over and turned the page. It is a very unusual novel and there is something very special about it and I am glad I had the opportunity to read it.