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Four Letters of Love: A Novel by Niall…

Four Letters of Love: A Novel (original 1997; edition 1997)

by Niall Williams

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521629,436 (3.77)6
Title:Four Letters of Love: A Novel
Authors:Niall Williams
Info:Farrar Straus & Giroux (T) (1997), Hardcover, 257 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Literature Ireland

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Four Letters of Love by Niall Williams (1997)



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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
The Four Letters of Love is a thought-provoking novel that I serendipitously found at the public library used bookstore. Situated in picturesque Ireland, the story begins in the first person with Nicholas, a young twelve year-old boy, telling of how his father received a directive from God commanding him to quit his civil servant job and to become an artist painter. Nicolas’ father embarks on his new calling, and abandons the family for long periods of time during his painting trips to Western Ireland. The other main character in the story is Isabel Gore, the daughter of the master teacher living on an island off the Galway coast. Although Isabel’s parents have high aspirations for her, her beauty and high-spirit attract the eye of a bucolic young man named Peader, whom she ends up disastrously marrying. Without giving too much away, this is essentially a love story about Nicholas’ devotion to his father and his undying love for Isabel. Beautifully and lyrically written in a more traditional style of writing, as with Jane Austin, this story led me to ponder issues about destiny and faith, as Nicholas comes to realize that nothing is happenstance, but is all part of God’s plan to complete the weave in the fabric of our lives. I especially loved one passage in which the author states, “In love everything changes, and continues changing all the time. There is no stillness, no stopped clock of the heart in which the moment of happiness holds forever, but only the constant whirring forward motion of desire and need, rising and falling, falling and rising, full of doubts then certainties that moment by moment change and become doubts again.” Because this novel is so brilliantly written and provocative, I decided to give it five stars, even though it might not be as light-hearted or frivolous as many of the books that I so enjoy. ( )
  haymaai | Jul 13, 2015 |
All Irish fiction has that same tiresome gloom about it. The characters, although sketchy were for the most part interesting - despite doom wrapped in their very DNA. Beautiful bursts of writing from Williams, and the unfinished, mostly unlikeable characters floating like dark clouds on top of this gorgeous sparkling prose. We are all doomed. But to follow your bliss blindly, impetuously is, despite Joseph Campbell, is not always the path to wholeness or happiness. The parents of Nicholas - especially the father - were those typical Irish dragged by "God" to destroy themselves and all around them. The search for meaning and beauty commanded by God may as well be the command to search for coal in the most unstable mine. Nicholas' worship of his father makes this even more perverted. The folks on the island resolve to live brighter lives. Son Sean's lengthy withdrawl from life is incomprehensible to me (but this IS magical realism, after all). I do not like it when a brief episode of epilepsy turns a character into stone. My daughter has had severe epilepsy for over 30 years. She's up and running not long after tremendous lengthy convulsions. (I suppose THIS would be magic realism to Mr. Williams & his readers). Nicholas is injected into this island setting to redeem all. Our book club wanted to see the ending as "all living happily ever after". I am not convinced. Had Williams not abandoned this book when he did (at a very good point, no complaints from me) he would have gone on to torpedo the hoped-for love. Irish books always have to wallow in mock dramatic oppressiveness. ( )
  c_why | Jan 28, 2012 |
Fellas, discover your inner romantic.

A first novel but he had written four non-fiction books before with his wife about local life. A romantic story with fantastic twists that are quite believable. The descriptive turn of phrase is often breathtaking and compensates for the rather slow pace of the plot, which doesn't really get going until the final quarter of the book. This book is about the style of its telling rather than the story itself. ( )
1 vote Ruby_Barnes | Aug 25, 2011 |
From Library Journal
In a dingy little city in Ireland, civil servant William Coughlin abandons his job and his family because he believes God has commanded him to paint. The son wants to hate his father but cannot, eventually following him into the west of Ireland to try to understand his father's motivations and redeem his life. On an island off the west coast of Ireland, young Isabel blames herself when her gifted little brother falls mysteriously mute and lame, and though she heads to the mainland for schooling - her school teacher father has great dreams for her, expecting her to redeem his life - her guilt and her passionate nature combine to drive her off course. Naturally, these two stories meet and blend beautifully in Williams's lyrical, dreamy first novel, which more than anything else is a meditation on the love, both sacred and profane, that shapes us. Both William and Isabel look for signs from God, and both are disappointed. But there is a miracle at the end that redeems everyone. Readers will find the occasional passage of grievous overwriting that one might expect from a beginner and just as often thoughtful, wonderfully wrought passages that soar and soar. Highly recommended. Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. ( )
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  EricaKline | Oct 26, 2006 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Nicholas Coughlan’s father leaves public services, abandons his family, and goes to paint on God’s calling.Nicholas’ mother dies after sometime when his father returns from painting.Nicholas spent a desperate and sad childhood when his father was away painting.Nicholas was sure that his family was surrounded by cloud of unhappiness.He was waiting for miracle.
After his mother died, God spoke to his father again.His father left for painting.Nicholas was sure that there has been no such thing as God’s calling and that his father was wrong about it.Nicholas took to public services to pay bills for both his father and himself.Nicholas father died.
Isabel Gore was amazing dancer and dances to the tune of his brother Sean, a musical prodigy.Unless one day fit strikes Sean
and he loses his speech and freedom of movement while playing tune to which Isabel was dancing.Isabel, full of guilt because of his brother’s state and her family’s expectation. goes to Galway school.She falls in love and marries Peader.

But the book said Nicholas Coughlan and Isabel Gore were made for each other.
Until part four of the book, there was no connection between Nicholas and Isabel.I was now getting desperate to know how Nicholas and Isabel meet after all.And it is breathtaking to read how series of event lead Nicholas to Isabel.

I was reading Niall William for the first time.And I am so waiting to read novels written by him.Four letters of love is lyrical and mystical.
It is a story of love and lost and hope and faith.

The relationship beween Nicholas father and mother,Isabel’s father and mother, Isabel and Peader, Nicholas and Isabel is very beautifully
written.I could see how life shattered in relationships and how people are tied to each other because of four lettered word ‘Love’.This book
does tell that love is all about hope and faith.

I could not drop the book once it took its pace.And the book is so well written that you dont want to miss anything in it.Ireland is described
very beautifully in some parts.The books is easy to read.It is divided in Seven parts and each part contains small chapters.

I just wish Isabel’s mother would have given her four letters written by Nicholas.But fate takes its own turn.

The book does become too desciptive at times but i think we can bear a bit of it.Some of the things in the book seem a bit unreal but they do go well in the context written.I think the wrong part of this book can be ignored if you want

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0330352695, Paperback)

'When I was twelve years old God spoke to my father for the first time. God didn't say much. He told my father to be a painter and left it at that ...' So begins Niall Williams' magical tale about love and destiny. Nicholas Coughlan and Isabel Gore were made for each other - but fate doesn't always take the easiest or the most obvious route to true love. For a start, Nicholas and Isabel have never met and nor are they likely to, without some kind of divine intervention. But as God, ghosts, a series of coincidences and seemingly chance events and encounters conspire to bring the couple together, other - often more human - forces attempt to keep them apart. 'What will be, will be,' of course, but that doesn't guarantee a happy-ever-after ending, nor answer the question 'Will they, won't they?' Written in a lyrical, lilting tone, "Four Letters of Love" is a glorious, uplifting story about faith, about seizing the moment, believing in your instincts and acting on impulse - and about following your heart, no matter where it may lead.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:27 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Nicholas and Isabel were made for each other, but how will they ever know it? This novel is about destiny, acceptance and the tragedies and miracles of everyday life - a story about the power of love in all its guises.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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