S is a hard book to define. Which made this review kind of hard to write…
A young woman picks up a book left behind by a stranger. Inside it are his margin notes, which reveal a reader entranced by the story and by its mysterious author. She responds with notes of her own, leaving the book for the stranger, and so begins an unlikely conversation that plunges them both into the unknown. – Goodreads
S is actually three semi-interlinked stories: the actual novel Ship of Theseus, the conversation and eventual romance between the readers writing to each other in the margins, and the mystery of the identity of the author and his editor. Everyone seems to have a different way of reading the book. I decided to read a chapter of the novel (along with the footnotes), then go back and read the notes in the margins and inserts contained in that chapter. Some readers go even further and read the margin notes in a certain order based on ink colour, but I didn’t bother. Reading it this way worked pretty well – I was able to keep track of each storyline without issues.
Ship of Theseus was well written and entertaining. It read like an enduring classic – which I guess was the point. I would have happily read just the novel on it’s own. The romance story in the margins was interesting but kind of petered off as the book went on – as if they weren’t sure where to go with it. The mystery of the author and his editor was the most interesting out of all three stories – it really is what kept me engaged through the whole book. Unfortunately, all three threads seemed a bit light on actual story, and really could have used further development.
The book was also chock full of curios – letters, photos and documents used to try and solve the mystery. I absolutely loved that part of the whole experience. The curios were detailed and very realistic at times – it made it all very immersive. Really, S is more of an experience rather than just a book to read, and it is the biggest selling feature of the book. It’s just unfortunate that more effort wasn’t taken to create a more solid story to accompany it.
Would I read S again? I hesitate to say yes – it wasn’t a light or simple read and took forever to get through. Would I recommend it to others? Yeah. Even with my low review rating, I think I’d still encourage others to check it out.