I will not lie. I bought this book for its cover. Somebody mentioned it on Twitter and I went looking for it on Amazon where I fell in love with the cover for the very first time – well, what can I say? Sometimes I can be a very shallow girl.
I regret nothing.
From the get go this book is charged with longing. It feels almost voyeuristic to be party to such overwhelming emotion that doesn’t belong to you. Nevertheless, it’s gorgeous and honest; and it feels (a lot) like those days as a young ‘un when you wanted someone so badly but couldn’t do anything about it. I’ve been there, you’ve probably been there.
So it’s with that in mind that I plow through this breathtaking book. It’s not an easy read by any measure. The prose-poetry format is hard going and sometimes distracts you from the plot, which if you really think about it, is flimsy to say the least. All you really need to fathom though, from Smart’s beautiful words are the love she feels. And the despair, the regret; she feels it all (thank you Feist for this reference).
A bit about the history of this book. BGCSISDAW was first published in 1945 and is generally considered a literary classic. It details (but not much) Canadian author, Elizabeth Smart’s romance with the poet George Barker, whose small book of poetry she is alleged to have one day discovered on the shelf of a bookstore.
When I first started to think about this review I got to thinking a lot about the nature of the love story. Of the ‘Meet Cute’ and the exact circumstances/moment in which a person ‘just knows’.
This is an unusual and tumultuous love story that deserves it’s place on the page, but is it as extraordinary as it’s legend has you believe? Probably. How can one woman spout such unbelievable prose about something that doesn’t? I am awed by the writing.
My pondering also led me to this thought: how many great romantic tales are there out there that nobody will ever know about? There should be a law that if you have an incredible story you have to legally submit it for public record.
I digress, of course. The book begins when Smart flies both Barker and his wife to the USA from Japan to join her. Well, I didn’t say this was going to be easy.
I don’t want to say much more other than it’s worth a read. The writing will blow you away if you love language as much as I do and I honestly think it’s an experience you should have as a book lover. In some ways, I wish all books were like this because it’s very pretty. I definitely wish all book covers looked like this.
You can currently score a copy on Amazon for around £2.81 (used) if you don’t mind waiting for it to be shipped from the US.
- By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept
- Publisher: Flamingo; Re-issue edition (9 Nov 1992)
- ISBN-10: 0586090398
- ISBN-13: 978-0586090398
- Bought paperback (secondhand)