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The End of the Alphabet

by CS Richardson

When Ambrose Zephyr learns that he has less than a month to live, he produces a suitcase full of travel brochures, dons his one good suit, and, with his charming wife in tow, sets off to travel the world from A to Z. Delightful, intelligent, and broader in scope and theme than one might expect from so short a tale, The End of the Alphabet is a remarkable book.

There is something gently magical about this quirky debut, though the places and characters are never less than believable. Richardson’s tendency to give equal attention to the most minor of details – a flipped collar, the right amount of swoosh on a cursive letter, the neighbour’s small dog – gives the story credibility, depth, and ultimately meaning.

Richardson’s style is clean and elegant, integrating form and content in a clever, satisfying way. (Perhaps not surprising coming from the mind of an award-winning book designer.) He writes in a likeable voice – sometimes poetic, sometimes prosaic, and often quite funny. In characterizing the voice of Zephyr’s wife, herself a writer, Richardson describes his own: her writing is known “for its economic style and refreshing avoidance of simile.” Exactly. Richardson’s economy is a triumph; not so much as a word is extraneous. (And the book’s design, though not done by Richardson himself, is nothing to sneeze at either.)

The epigraph to The End of the Alphabet is a short selection from Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Question of Travel,” which is most fitting: this is a story as much about travel as it is about home, and as much about
creating real memories as it is about simply imagining them.