Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Lovesong” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.61  ·  Rating details ·  1,558 ratings  ·  179 reviews
Seeking shelter in a Parisian cafe from a sudden rainstorm, John Patterner meets the exotic Sabiha and his carefully mapped life changes forever. Resonant of the bestselling Conditions of Faith, Alex Miller's keenly awaited new novel tells the deeply moving story of their lives together, and of how each came undone by desire.
Strangers did not, as a rule, find their way to
Hardcover, 354 pages
Published November 1st 2009 by Allen & Unwin (first published January 1st 2009)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Lovesong, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Lovesong

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.61  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,558 ratings  ·  179 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Lovesong
Tunisia, France, Australia.

Sabiha from Tunisia captured the hearts, minds and souls of at least four men. Through her grandmother's legacy, she sang her stories to those men who frequent Chez Dom café in France where she lived with her aunt Horia, after the sudden passing of Horia's husband Dom Pakos. Dom's gift was the gift of happiness. He had it from his mother. His ease and generosity of manner could strike a smile from the sourest soul.

By taking the wrong train, a young John Patterner ente
From the beginning we know the ending of this book, although not how it came to be, or why it is as it is. At first I really liked this story, but from about half-way through I became a little impatient with it.

I found the main character, Sabiha, difficult to relate to, as her greatest desire in life is very different to any of mine, although I still felt an empathy for her in her struggles with her dream. I felt as though the author made more of events in the story than he needed to - I was rea
Sep 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Alex Miller’s beautiful Lovesong is anything but a simple love story. Ken, a retired novelist returns home from an extended stay in Venice to find his neighborhood changed. There is a new pastry shop run by Sabiha, a lovely woman with an air of sorrow. Ken befriends her husband, John, and listens as John tells their story.

In Paris many years earlier, John took a wrong train and then was caught in a sudden rainstorm. Taking shelter in a nearby café, he met Sabiha, a chance encounter that would ch
Jun 02, 2011 rated it it was ok
It starts off promising but deterioates page by page. Lovesong also seems an inappropriate title - 'the epitome of selfishness' or 'screwing the spineless' would be more accurate. Only love for the self in this one. ...more
Diane Challenor
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful style of writing. I enjoyed every word. The rhythm of the story, a north african harmony, coupled with a quiet yet intriguing pace, matched nicely with my desire to know what was going to happen next. I'm lucky to own the book, a traditional printed hardback, a lovely tangible thing. Great cover, well considered layout accompanying a really good story. ...more
Nathan McMahon
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is my first review. Primarily; as this book frustrated me more than any other, and secondly; my understanding of its themes and point eludes me, and I feel the need to vent...

It's a story about an allegedly famous writer returning from a self-imposed retirement overseas, to find a pastry shop where the laundromat once was. He becomes obsessed with the Tunisian lady of the store, Sabiha, and via means explained later begins learning of her tale from her Australian husband, John.

It's written
Jan 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
Yay, I finally managed to get through this rather turgid examination of a marriage between a spineless and uninteresting male, John, and Sabiha, possibly the most self centred and destructive female protagonist I've ever had the misfortune of encountering in literature. Despite beautiful passages of prose, I felt that this story could a) be about 150 pages shorter (page after relentlessly dull page of Sabiha's obsession with her unconceived child) and b) how much better a genius like Raymond Car ...more
Feb 26, 2011 rated it did not like it
Having read 'Journey to the Stone Country' in an Australian Literature course last year, I was interested to see how this one went. I did not see it as a "love song" but the rather bleak, slightly ironical fantasy of a middle-aged man. I would have liked more depth and humour in all of the main characters, although there was potential for kindness in some. The tentative treatment of others made me wonder whether their cruelty was meant to be seen as such. Promising settings for both felt dull an ...more
Dec 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: france, australia, 2011
Almost everyone gushes on how beautiful and evocative this book is. And how powerful the love is between Sabiha & John.


Sabiha loves Sabiha & most of all, Sabiha loves her imaginary little girl. All that pining for this long lost baby really got into my nerves. And I certainly didn't feel the love between the couple. John needed to be a man & have more of a spine.

That said, I did like the way the book is written but the story not so much. Probably a little more character development?

I t
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 STARS. I loved this book. I was swept away by this story and all of its characters. The story is simply written (my favourite narrative style) but contains so many hidden depths about love, relationships and how far people will go to get what they want. Miller has never disappointed. His characters were believable, vulnerable, fragile and yet resilient (the full array of the human spirit) and I was disappointed to leave them behind.
Mar 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: australia, c21st
A beautiful book, highly recommended, see my review
Apr 12, 2015 rated it it was ok
Ken is a writer, who has retired and is a bit lost as to what to do to fill his time. Returning from a trip to Venice, he discovers that the inconsiderate adult daughter with whom he lives has not bought him milk to make tea. Feeling despair, he walks out into the streets of Carlton to the local supermarket. These streets have changed so much over his lifetime he can hardly even recognise the suburb or his place in it. Just when I was starting to think "Oh no, not another story about a white mal ...more
Kirsty Leishman
Jun 14, 2014 rated it liked it
One of the things that caused me qualms reading Lionel Shriver's Big Brother was the narration: the way Edison, the big brother of the central character, is effectively silenced in the meditations of his sister on his obesity and her response to that. A similar issue arises in this novel too, which tells the story of Sabiha and John, both migrants--from Tunisia and Australia, respectively--running a bistro in Paris. Now in Australia, John tells his story to Ken, a retired novelist, whose interpr ...more
Feb 25, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: general, australian
Generally I liked this book, but it didn't get me thinking quite as much as when I read "The ancestor game" for my book club (a book which was a much harder read, I have to say). The story flows well, but I found the plot a little shallow. I didn't really like the main character, Sabiha, who seemed very caught up in her own needs and feelings without any thought for her husband, John. Sabiha came to Paris from Tunisia as an adult to help her Aunt Houria in her cafe so she does come from a differ ...more
I was totally unprepared for this novel. The title is 'Lovesong' but there is actually a glaring red-light part of the plot that would have stopped me from ever picking up this book. It is one thing that I would usually avoid reading in a novel; (view spoiler).

I do not care for the characters either... there was no one particularly to empathise with or at least not for me. I also feel rather conflicted with my feelings
Jun 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
2 stars is a bit generous for this novel. I had to absolutley force myself to keep reading as it was just so damned boring, dragged out and repetitive. I felt like I was reading some contrived trashy novel (aka Danielle Steele), not a supposed literary novel from an acclaimed author. The characters weren't convincing, the dialogue was contrived, the length of the novel was about 250 pages too long. This was my first Alex Miller novel, and I think it may be my last! The only positive thing about ...more
David Sweeney
Mar 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
In fairness probably not the book to read after Alice Munro and Siri Hustvedt. First the bad stuff - it was one of those books where the last 40 pages just ruined it. I won't spoil the ending for anyone. The story will clearly resonate with some more than others, and I will say that if I had to hear the main male character say "I love you darling" one more time it really would have pushed me over the edge. Now the good stuff - some of the prose is just beautiful and I especially loved the evocat ...more
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
In the end I could only give this book a 2 star "its ok" rating. It started with much promise - engaging, interesting characters and evocative writing - but by half way it just became repetitive with no real development. The main female character - well, I just didn't like her. She became obsessive and singly minded to the point of annoyance. Alex Miller's writing was great but the story wasn't. ...more
Nov 24, 2020 rated it did not like it
I was just a couple of pages in and was assaulted with descriptions of Sabiha as an “exotic-looking woman”, “she was dark”, “his darkly exotic wife” in quick succession. Is this racial microaggression on the part of the narrating character, Ken, necessary? In contrast, Sabiha later sings an Arabic song with a line that loosely translates to "I am the colour of the sands of the desert at evening". I am not asking for such a level of poetry from Ken but surely there are many other descriptive word ...more
Helen O'Toole
Sep 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Such an enjoyable read in so many ways and with a true sense of place. You could easily imagine why the young Australian school teacher chanced upon the Tunisian restaurant in an unfashionable part of Paris; I am certain it was the aromas of Sabiha's cooking. I really wanted to give this 3 and a half stars as I initially warmed to the characters especially the Australian John Patterner and his wife, the complex, tragic Sabiha. Cannot discuss the intricacies of the plot but I guess the tale Alex ...more
Chris Te Lindert
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Different to most of my reading of late, most of the real stories of Houria, Sabina, John and Ken take place in their internal lives. Miller unfolds the lives of these characters, in their settings from Tunisia, Paris and finally in Carlton, little by little investing readers in their outcomes. Given their very different ways of viewing the world and what they are prepared to bring about their desired outcomes - and no doubt the equally differing reactions of his readers to what unfolds - there ...more
Sep 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It was the cover of the book that first grabbed my attention followed by the tactile feel of the book with its rougher paper pages and uneven edges. Alex Miller is a fantastic writer and he didn't let me down with this story either. Set in Australia and narrated by an un-named (until the end of the book) writer who befriends John, a quiet man married to an exotic African woman who he met in a Café in Paris. The un-named writer then decides to write their story so we have lovely rich backflashes ...more
This is my first book by Alex Miller and I really enjoyed it. It’s about John, who tells his story to an ageing writer Ken, of his time in Paris where by chance he meets this beautiful exotic African woman Sabihia. They instantly fall in love and then marry. After several years of marriage Sabihia is still unable to conceive the child that she has been longing for and this puts a huge shadow over John & Sabihia relationship.

This is a beautiful yet sometimes painful story to read. Even though I
Jan 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Having taken this book away with me on holiday, and fallen under its spell in a languid, internet-free world, I was disappointed to the point of feeling quite cross by its degeneration close to the end of the story. Unlikelihood became downright improbability, and the seemingly carefully set up mystery of the long-standing antagonism between Nejib and Bruno was left unresolved - not tantalisingly, but in a completely unsatisfactory way. I'm left undecided as to whether John Patterner (meekly acc ...more
Shortly after Ken (an author) meets John, John gets to chatting about his history: the time he spent in Paris (Ken and John now live in Australia), how he met his wife, Sabiha (an immigrant from Tunisia), and their life running a cafe before coming (returning, in John's case) to Australia. There is a small side-story with Ken and his daughter, as well.

I started off liking it, and it still ended ok, but I downgraded my rating slightly because I ended up not really liking any of the characters. I
Scarlett Murray
Jul 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Miller gently builds your respect and understanding for the love story between the main two characters but then adds a startling and painful twist. He makes you sympathise with someone that appears to have committed a wholly selfish act. I think it is surprising that a male author can portray a female character so accurately, as I think that few can do the same. The language is beautiful and the narrative of the story-teller - that is always present in Miller's books - works especially well here ...more
Jun 07, 2011 rated it liked it
This is the second book I have read (the other being Brooklyn) where an older man has written from the view of a coming of age girl.

It doesnt work in my opinion.

The overall story is okay so far...but I'm not feeling inspired by it or can't wait to pick it up each day.

How does a man born in 1936 (now 75 years old!!) really understand and can portray thoughts of a 20 year old coming of age girl who has a desire for a baby?

It all seems a bit forced to me.


Finished the book now. It go
Jul 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Alex Miller has done it again. Rich characters and the evolution of deep emotions told with a rawness and bluntness that is simultaneously beautiful. Miller explores what telling our stories means. We know the end at the start, but that worked to drive me on, wanting to discover the details- the whys, the hows. I loved this book.
(I listened to the first half and read the second half- both modes worked for me, though I enjoy the savoring of Miller's prose and hovering over sections that reading
Kate Forsyth
Mar 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary
This is a book as much about the craft of writing as the actual love story and, as such, was a fascinating read. It’s about an ageing writer, Ken, who strikes up a friendship with a younger man, John, who is married to a Tunisian woman, Sabiha. Slowly John reveals the story of his marriage with Sabiha and how her longing for a child led them into betrayal and tragedy. Beautifully told, with a deceptively simple and elegant style.
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
An Australian teacher falls in love with a Tunisian cafe owner in Paris and this novel looks at their relationship, focusing on her deeply felt need for a child. Well written and I liked the structure of their story actually becoming a story within a story. Worth reading.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • A Room Made of Leaves
  • Honeybee
  • The Living Sea of Waking Dreams
  • The Weekend
  • The Dictionary of Lost Words
  • Phosphorescence: On Awe, Wonder and Things That Sustain You When the World Goes Dark
  • The Mother Fault
  • The Good Turn (Cormac Reilly, #3)
  • Other People's Houses
  • Like a House on Fire
  • The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman
  • Sorrow and Bliss
  • The Girl at the Lion d'Or
  • The Bluffs
  • All Our Shimmering Skies
  • The Yield
  • Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump
  • The Summer Solstice and Other Stories
See similar books…
Alex Miller is one of Australia's best-loved writers, and winner of the Melbourne Prize for Literature 2012.

Alex Miller is twice winner of Australia's premier literary prize, The Miles Franklin Literary Award, first in 1993 for The Ancestor Game and again in 2003 for Journey to the Stone Country. He is also an overall winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, in 1993 for The Ancestor Game. His fi

Related Articles

Kazuo Ishiguro insists he’s an optimist about technology.  “I'm not one of these people who thinks it's going to come and destroy us,” he...
390 likes · 37 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »