Book Review: ‘The End of Loneliness’ by Benedict Wells – Is it the end, really?

When should you read this book? When your faith that ‘everything will probably turn out OK’ is just that little bit too strong.

Jules and Alva

‘The End of Loneliness’ is all about Jules, a boy whose parents are tragically killed in an accident when he is a young child. The story charts his relationship with his two siblings Marty and Liz, and their move to a boarding school following their parents’ death.

Each of the children takes a separate path in dealing with their grief; where Liz turns into a wild child, Marty throws himself into the newly booming world of tech. Jules is left to fend for himself, until he meets Alva.

United by their outsider status, the two strike up a bond that follows them into adulthood and comes to define Jules’s entire life.

These characters are my friends

There are two things which make ‘The End of Loneliness’ special.

Firstly, even though it deals with heavy topics, Wells’s novel is written in a disarmingly simple and accessible style.

And secondly rather than being driven by the plotline, it reads much more like a character study.

Each of Wells’s characters (even including the subsidiary ones) is so clearly drawn, with their own fears, desires, expectations and conflicts that the end result is incredibly true to life.

It’s as if Wells crafted his characters into complete people, and then threw difficult situations at them to see how they’d react.

The result is a novel that really sucks you in and is totally convincing.

Lonely man by a lake
Photo by Japheth Mast from Pexels

A happy little number

Nobody wants a character drama where nice things happen to the people involved.

Pleasingly, Wells’s characters have pretty unfortunate lives. Early on, Alva claims that life must be a ‘zero-sum game’ – in effect, that getting all of your bad luck out of the way early on will mean that something nice will happen to you later to make up for it.

You can probably guess how well that works out.

Should you be looking for a chilled out and cheerful holiday read, you would do well to look elsewhere – but if you’re open to a bit of hand-wringing then you will certainly be rewarded by ‘The End of Loneliness’.

There are plenty of really heart-warming, lovely and authentic moments in this novel, particularly when dealing with Jules’s relationship with his siblings.

The relationships depicted are complex but the flaws in the characters never stop them from being likeable. Unusually, the population of this book is 100% asshole-free.

Wells’s writing also places heavy emphasis on the redemptive power of love, be it romantic or familial. Here is a story which, at its heart, is about nice people drawing together.

Something a little familiar

As I read this book (which was kindly recommended by one of my colleagues), I couldn’t help but feel reminded of another story I read a while ago.

Yes, that feeling of having your heart toyed with and stomped on? It could only be the magnificent/horrible ‘A Little Life‘.

‘The End of Loneliness’ certainly shares a similar atmosphere, which gets under your skin by giving you beautifully crafted, intelligent, three-dimensional characters, and then betrays you by having god-awful things happen to them.

Still, in terms of forging an almost life-like emotional connection between reader and character,’The End of Loneliness’ holds up to this comparison – which is probably one of the highest compliments I could give it.

Overall ‘The End of Loneliness’ gets a strong six from me.

strong 6_10Have you read ‘The End of Loneliness’? What did you think?

Pick up a copy of The End of Loneliness using my Amazon affiliate link.

Next up: ‘Burning Country’ by Leila Al-Shami and Robin Yassin-Kassab.

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