All the Beautiful Things You Love by Jonathan Seidler

Reviewed by Rod McLary

The Walker Brothers once sang ‘breaking up is so very hard to do’ and those of us who have broken up with a loved one will know exactly what the Brothers mean.

In his debut fiction novel, Jonathan Seidler explores the break-up of a marriage.  As with much else in life, breaking up is a very personal process and, with a nod to Leo Tolstoy, every break-up is unhappy in its own way.

Enzo and Elly have been together for ten years and married for ten months.  They believe – and from what the reader sees – they are a fine match and are deeply in love.  But there is one issue they are unable to agree on – the issue of having children.  As they have not yet addressed this, it lies in waiting until the right [or wrong] moment to burst out and make havoc.  But that is still ahead of Enzo and Elly – and we the readers.

Elly and Enzo live together in an apartment in Hackney in London.  Their story is immersed in the zeitgeist of the early 2000s – full of music and the social culture of the day, and the kind of social life enjoyed by young attractive twenty-somethings.  The social milieu is beautifully captured by the author and it is very easy for the reader to be drawn into this exciting description of London life.  The couple’s milieu is underscored by numerous and apposite references to bands, musicians, singers and songs of the period – from PJ Harvey to Ed Sheeran to Blood Orange.  The novel even has its own soundtrack which is accessed by a QR code in the early pages of the book.  It is indeed a book of its time.

When Enzo and Elly break up – and Enzo leaves their apartment – Elly decides to sell off all their furnishings one by one.  Each item carries with it its own history and significance for the couple, and this is explicated in often-humorous vignettes where the reader learns about the item’s emotional significance for Elly – and as well something about the likely buyer.  Some of the buyers are engaging – like Himesh a young Asian man who buys the dining room table.  Others like Penny are less likeable; she  almost buys a wagon but has ‘such contempt for a life others seemed to desperately want’ [136] that Elly could not bear to sell it to her.

Interspersed through the narrative are ‘Intermezzi’ through which the history of Elly’s and Enzo’s relationship is set out; and finally in The Beginning, Where It Ends, it is disclosed how and why Enzo leaves Elly ‘[when] his world collapses around him’ [216].

Jonathan Seidler has crafted an imaginative and engrossing narrative of a marriage breakdown.  While it is both heart-warming and heart-aching, it is told with a leavening of humour and with clarity of insight into how relationships function and how a fundamental difference of opinion can undo ten years of love.  The novel’s protagonists are attractive and vibrant – Enzo with his Italian heritage and not-quite-right English; and Elly with her tall elegant Scandinavian background – and that is no disadvantage in engaging the readers fully in their narrative.   A book to be enjoyed on a number of levels – well recommended.

The author Jonathan Seidler, when not writing novels, is a music writer, critic and performer.  He has been the music supervisor for a SBS series Latecomers; and is the co-founder of a vinyl company.

All the Beautiful Things You Love


by Jonathan Seidler

Pan Macmillan

ISBN 978 176126 954 7

$34.99; 245pp


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