A Love Song for the Sad Man in the White Coat – Roe Horvat
Simon had always expected love to feel different than this. Whether it was his Catholic upbringing or the poetry he’d read – Simon had thought that true love would be uplifting, fulfilling, that it would give a meaning to his loitering, and add joy to his leisure. But not this kind of love. This love was a flesh-eating monster, sharp-clawed and evil-eyed, ravishing his mind with medieval cruelty.
Dr Simon Mráz is a respected specialist and lecturer at the Charles University in Prague. He is a serious man, responsible. His students call him The Cruel Doctor Frost not because he’s unkind, but because of his unwavering, ice-cold composure. As a psychiatrist, he values sanity. And sanity can be found in work, restraint, and self-control.
Not many know of that one time in the past when The Cruel Doctor Frost lost his cool. His ill-advised, secret affair with a student left Simon deeply wounded. Since that day, every minute of Simon’s life has been a struggle to remain sane, functioning. He’s managed so far – as long as he is needed, as long as his work makes a difference, Simon can scrape together enough strength to get up in the morning and run off the nightmares. But when his friends begin drifting away, his beloved protégé becomes independent, and the man who bereaved Simon of his precious sanity might return… Simon’s mind and body stop responding to his impressive willpower.
Some authors write fictional books that are semi-autobiographical. Based on their (Horvat’s pronoun) books, I’m guessing Roe Horvat used to work in a university, possibly in a psychiatric medicine-related field. I also suspect that they might have become involved with a student in a more personal level. But that’s just me speculating.
The story started with Matej, making his daring move on Dr. Simon Mraz which paid off really well. They had an affair then Matej disappeared leaving Simon and Marta, Matej’s sister, to cope with the loss.
Unfortunately, I felt an irrational annoyance towards Matej for leaving these people without closure. Logically, I know he had his reasons, abusive father, trauma and what not, but to disappear without any contact for years seemed selfish. I didn’t warm up to Simon. People kept saying he was cold, logical and rational which would normally make me like him but he just came across as miserable, restless and empty but that is mostly probably the author’s point. Simon showed signs of the big D and having gone through that myself, I totally understand where he’s coming from but reading about it is not pleasant.
I know it’s not doing the book justice but I skipped part two because I didn’t feel like going through the details of what happened in the past. Most of the stuff there, I already know from part one but you might want to check it out for the steam and the fluff.
Part three was the best part, in my opinion. Here, we meet the present day Matej whom I could finally forgive and it was quite refreshing to see Simon get hammered. My favorite characters were Mike, Lukas’ boyfriend and Marta. They bought joy and lightness in what was otherwise a dismal atmosphere. The reunion was an emotional nuclear bomb but the resolution came on gentle tiptoes after some opiods and alcohol. It was all worth it.
Even if it hits close to home, reading about missing someone or somebody with mental disorders is never enjoyable for me and it doesn’t necessarily make me sympathetic to the characters. But what I loved most about the book is that I am given a clear picture of real Czech people and Eastern Europe. None of the touristy stuff such as those found here but a real insider perspective. This is particularly interesting for me because this is half-way across the world and I would probably never get to visit these places in my lifetime. I also liked how Horvat casually throws around indie and literary references without seeming like a pretentious name dropper. Bjork, Radiohead, Henry Rollins, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, they’re all in there along with Rimbaud, Terry Pratchett and Cards Against Humanity. Simon and Matej AND Horvat know their stuff.
Overall, some people might go for the feels but I went for the realism. Read it for a good dose of both.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love