Certain that an ant has crawled into her eye, Rachel puts the “temperature of Eliza’s love” to test.
“Do you believe me?”
A scientist, Eliza thinks it is as ludicrous as it is impossible. An ant in the eye? But that’s how different they were — one fanciful and the other factual.
“I believe you,” lies Eliza, capitulating to love.
“Without the ant between them, they would be free.”
Sophie Ward’s ‘Love and Other Thought Experiments’, longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, embraces science and philosophy through thought experiments and weaves a poignant tale of love lost and found.
Rachel and Eliza have been thinking about having a baby, something Rachel is absolutely sure of, but her partner is unconvinced. The entry of the ant into Rachel’s eye and its presence, invisible to a stoic Eliza, lends an unexplained intimacy to their relationship, and makes them decide on having a surrogate baby.
The book further dives into a series of perfectly connected sci-fi events, with the author introducing human and non-human narrators across the boundaries of time, space and planets, but never without losing warmth. Arthur is raised in an unconventional family with three parents, but still misses ‘Mummy’ Rachel. Where is she gone? Another planet?
He grows up to be an astronaut, a man of space. You almost imagine Hans Zimmer’s ‘Interstellar Main Theme’ playing in the background.
Ward is a master of emotions and she reiterates this when writing about the sense of loss Eliza feels when Rachel is gone. No more “promise of being held and loved and accepted”. It breaks your heart.
Though Ward, through her brilliant writing, makes it hard to choose the best one from the 10 chapters, ‘Ameising’, a story narrated by the ant, click-clacking into Rachel’s head, making a home there and finally becoming one with her, is deeply engaging and empathetic. It is consciousness within consciousness. Together they grow, establishing a perfect symbiotic relationship. This book is unputdownable.
The author gives the reader so much to admire, and so much to cherish. In her fluid writing, Ward offers an account that is balanced, intense and intelligent.
Her composition is commendable not just for its effortless narration, but also for it’s unique ability to form vivid imagery. Brimful of philosophy, ‘Love and Other Thought Experiments’ is a rare gem.