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.
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Like with all good books, I had to read this one more than once to be able to write a review that would do it justice. The first time I was reading it, I was really stressed about what would happen. I knew it would be happy in the end, but it was so stressful. I mean, even rereading (or listening it again) there was some…nervousness.
The writing was just…wonderful! I don’t think I have another word for it, but I enjoyed every sentence (and I kind of smiled every time there was ‘Simon said’ 😉 ). Even though the story goes back and then to the present again, it is never confusing. This is not a happy book. It deals with loneliness and sadness, as the title says, but it is achingly beautiful and with the resolution…It’s not a book to read when you want a feel-good story, this is not it. But it is so beautiful.
And the characters were amazing! Simon, I just wanted to punch him sometimes but also hug him so tightly and not let him go. He is the sad man in the white coat, the lonely doctor trying to deal with all the things in all the wrong ways. But even if he is the ‘Cruel Doctor Frost’ on the outside, with the help of flashbacks, we see that he…he isn’t. And in contrast with Simon, there is Matej.
Matej is lively, centre of the party, young student, but he has issues of his own. With his home situation, he often runs to Simon’s. We don’t get to know Matej’s perspective for most of the book, so we don’t know why he did the things that he did and hurt Simon so much. But when we do get to know his reasons, I can’t say anything but that they broke my heart.
The part with the reconciliation was the part when I wanted to slap Simon most. He is acting out, behaving terribly. But the resolution was great. I absolutely ADORED the fact that they knew they both changed. Three years can change a person a lot.
The story was close to me from the regional aspects a bit too, although not as much as Layover reminded me of my own country. But the situations, and especially the society’s attitude…they might be a bit better than described in the book, but are far from what they should be. And that distinct European feeling, the fact that it is one of the books that are so different from the US or UK based books, makes it even better.
The audiobook is also amazing, not just because of awesome writing, but also because the narrator is amazing. Vance Bastian did an amazing job. I love his voice and I loved that, for example, when Matej was stressed and speaking faster, he made it sound like that. It was an amazing and immersive listen and I really felt the characters and their feelings. It was … very real. I can’t wait to listen more of his narrations! 🙂
And if I had to describe the book in one sentence? It breaks your heart, jumps on it, but then in the end, it makes you happy and willing to go through it all again (and possibly again).