08 December 2011

The 351 Books of Irma Arcuri; David Bajo

The 351 Books of Irma Arcuri: A NovelThe 351 Books of Irma Arcuri: A Novel by David Bajo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A book about books? Yay! When that book includes lots of math? Uh, not-so-yay. Irma Arcuri is an author, book binder, relatively free spirit and the decades-long friend/lover of Philip. She disappears (possibly for good, possibly suicide) and leaves Philip her library of 351 books.

Philip is a twice-divorced math genius who runs for fun (he's worked out how many steps and breaths it takes to run the 3000) and who has downsized into a small apartment, little furniture and bookshelves to hold his legacy. His goal? To read all the books, not necessarily in order and not necessarily all the way through. One night he meets Lucia, with whom he starts a physical relationship - in part because she reminds him of Irma. Lucia points out that the books have not only been rebound by Irma, but that Irma has created content (a new story by Borges or paragraphs of Cervantes).

Added to this is his learning that his former stepson, Sam, has gone missing and that his two former wives and his stepchildren have had physical relationships with Irma. Philip goes to Spain looking for Sam and Lucia, hoping to also find Irma. Things get a little weird from there, with coincidences and memories colliding.

In some ways Irma and Philip's relationship like that of Hilde and Sophie in Sophie's World, or that of Griffen and Sabine. The math confused me (I'm not a math person) and that's when the book lost me; the books, the conversations about them and the bindings drew me in.

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