Messed up family story: The End of Loneliness by Benedict Wells (translated by Charlotte Collins)
The End of Loneliness is a melancholy yet hopeful novel about family, loss, and the way life turns out. Jules and his siblings Marty and Liz have their lives shattered by the unexpected death of their parents and suddenly find themselves at a state-run boarding school. Their lives diverge as they deal with the past in different ways. Meanwhile, Jules meets a girl in his class, Alva, who has a mystery surrounding her, but doesn’t quite realise how he feels about her until it is too late. As they all grow up, their ties are tested and they cannot always escape the spectre of loss and loneliness.
The novel, translated into English from German, is set across Germany, France, and Switzerland as the narrative jumps time to show the fragmented lives of Jules and his brother and sister. The stories Wells tells are simple and emotional, showing the relentless ups and downs of live whether they are large or small. Jules is a lost man who came from a promising, vivacious child, and as the narrator he keeps the melancholy tone running throughout. Hindsight is used quite sparingly and thus to good effect, used as a reminder of the ways the future affects the past and how it is remembered.
The End of Loneliness is an understated novel that feels almost like a film at times, caught in snapshots of life. It has a particular sadness about it, though it isn’t necessarily a sad book, and it depicts a complex sibling relationship that gives its main characters a chance to strengthen their bonds as well as drift apart. It is likely to be a hidden gem for readers looking for literary fiction with a heartfelt narrative.