Gunn's (Featherstone, 2003, etc.) highly self-aware “arrangement of a novel” is an almost love story, sketched from the outside looking in.
When Evan Gordonston returns to London after having moved away as a kid, he connects with childhood companion Emily Stuart, who suggests that he take a room with a friend of a friend in the suburbs. Evan is a successful banker, so there is no need for him to lodge in the top floor of Caroline Beresford’s stately home; nonetheless, he does and falls immediately in love with the titular lady of the house. Almost as immediately, he begs Emily, a copywriter, to “write it all down” on paper—his feelings about Caroline as well as endless mundane details about her appearance, troubled marriage, the home itself, the suburb of Richmond, and her and Evan’s small talk over coffee sometimes on weekends. Emily and Evan meet frequently in a series of bars (the progression and descriptions of which are a highlight) to down gin and tonics and discuss how very little there is to discuss. Emily is perturbed by how this nothingness can hardly make for a novel and, it emerges, by her own unrequited love for Evan. Desultory footnotes direct readers repeatedly to endnotes that provide many more details, most inconsequential. Indeed, “repeatedly” is a pertinent word, as the book is structured like a labyrinth—circular, passing the same sights over and over, with slight variation along the way. The most illuminating endnotes provide historical context about “unrequited love as a creative act,” which is one of the games afoot here. The examples, though, of Petrarch and Dante falling in love at first sight with underage girls and dedicating sweeping poetry to them, don’t age particularly well even when reframed (and reframed again) by Gunn.
An ode to unrequited love masquerading as a tale of unrequited love that might actually be a tale of unrequited love. Very meta.