BOOK REVIEW: The End of Loneliness

by Benedict Wells

“A difficult childhood is like an invisible enemy. You never know when it will strike.”

TEOL CoverEleven-year-old Jules and his siblings, Marty and Liz, live sheltered, seemingly idyllic lives in Munich with their devoted mother and father. Until, that is, both parents are killed in a catastrophic road accident while motoring in France and the children are sent to a grim state boarding school, where they rapidly drift apart.

Jules changes from a fearless, vivacious boy into a withdrawn teenager who writes stories and lives through his imagination. The only person able to reach him is the equally damaged Alva, whom he comes to love, but they are divided by a misunderstanding after leaving school.

Many years later they are given a chance to make amends, but their relationship has never been straightforward – grief shadows both their lives.

Seven years in the writing, The End of Loneliness is German author, Benedict Wells’ first novel to be published in the UK. Prior to translation it won the European Union Prize for Literature, was on the German bestseller list for over 18 months, and was translated into 26 languages.

Born in Munich in 1984, Wells writes from experience. He attended three separate Bavarian boarding schools from the age of six, and like his protagonists, suffered acute loneliness during this period. He moved to Berlin after graduating in 2003, but decided against attending university, opting instead to focus on his writing while earning his living by holding down a variety of jobs. He lived in Barcelona for a period but has recently returned to Berlin.

Superbly translated by Charlotte Collins (award-winning translator of The Tobacconist), The End of Loneliness is a book you fall into from the first page. It is a poignant exploration of the past told through the ruptured lives of the siblings: a moving tale of loss, longing and familial love. Wells has produced an outstanding piece of writing, one that will linger in your thoughts long after the story ends.

“If you spend your life running in the wrong direction, could it be the right one after all?”

Many thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for providing an advance review copy of this title.

Categories: Translated Literature

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11 replies

  1. Lovely review, Paula. I’d confidently read any translation by Charlotte Collins. She has superb taste!

  2. Great review of what sounds like a fascinating book. And perfectly timed for me: I’ve just finished The Little Paris Bookshop and have found myself thinking about the translation. It may be superb – or not. Certainly there are points where I was astonished at the choice of words. But perhaps it’s an accurate reflection of what the author intended. It’s impossible for me to know. I’ve not often been aware of the translation aspect of a book but I do wonder about this one. So hearing about the expert translation of Wells’ book is very encouraging!

    • I see that The Little Paris Bookshop was translated by Simon Pare. Unfortunately, I know nothing about his abilities as I’m not familiar with his work (although I hope to read the above at some point). I Googled his name and discovered he was responsible for translating the English edition of The Panama Papers. If you’re interested, there’s a brief interview with him here: 😊

      • Thank you, Paula 🙂 I also noted that he translated Der fliegende Berg by Christoph Ransmayr, which is on the long list for the Man Booker International Prize this year. His genres are certainly versatile!

  3. *Sigh* I need more space on my bookshelves. And more time. I’d go for this like a shot otherwise.

  4. Sounds like a rather sad book but was a compassionate review.


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