The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt: A review

Bob Comet is an introvert. He is also a retired librarian who lives a solitary life surrounded by books in his mint-colored house in Portland, Oregon.

Bob goes on a daily walk each morning and on one of those mornings, he encounters a confused elderly woman. He learns that she lives in a nearby senior center and he helps to return her to her home. Bob's life has existed at a bit of loose ends since his retirement and now he sees an opportunity to perhaps fill the void by volunteering at the center.

At the center, he finds a community of his age peers and through his interaction with them, details of his life begin to be revealed. We learn that he had been an unhappy child and that during the final days of World War II, he had run away from home. As a runaway, he had met various characters whom we learn about. Some of them were interesting; others could have been better left out altogether in my opinion.

The story is told in sections and my favorite section involved Bob's wife and best friend. Their backstory was important to understanding Bob and why he was the way he was. He had been hurt by them and that had provided much of the motivation for his actions in later life.  

Bob had wanted to share his love of books with the residents at the senior center. He had hoped to read to them, but he soon learned that the residents really had no interest in being read to by him and so he had to find other ways to perform his volunteer work. The volunteering did give his life a new purpose and he learned that he enjoyed getting to know the residents.

I think I would have liked the book more if it had stuck with the timeline and interactions at the senior center rather than spending so much time in Bob's childhood. Understandably, the writer was interested in exploring the background and providing context for Bob's character but a little of that went a long way for me and I would have preferred to spend more time in his present. All in all, I enjoyed the book quite a bit but felt that I would have enjoyed it more had the focus been tighter on Bob's present rather than his past.


  1. I have also read this ... and found the character of Bob to be pretty dull and some of the story dull too. I was surprised because I thought DeWitt often spins witty or humorous kinds of tales ... but this one didn't have much of that. I actually liked the tangent he writes about of Bob's escape at age 11 to the coast where he befriends those two lady playwrights. Now that had some amusement to it.

    1. I agree the character of Bob was not exactly an exciting one. Like you, I did enjoy the escapade with the two women playwrights.

  2. That was exactly my reaction to this one, Dorothy. I was really taken by surprise that so little of the book was told in the present, especially after the author took enough time to establish several fun and eccentric characters that I wanted to know more about and spend more time with. And then I was disappointed all over again at the end of the book, when only a few pages were tagged on to get us back to a later "present." It was a good novel, but I think it could easily have been a whole lot better than it was.

  3. The present timeline in this one with him volunteering at the senior center does sound good; it's too bad the author spent so much more time in the past. Sorry this one wasn't better.

  4. Sounds like an interesting read, except for the areas that you mentioned that weren't that engaging.

  5. Now that I've read your thoughts as well as Sam's on this book, it will be interesting to see what I think of it when I read it.


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