Gina Apostol's debut novel, available for the first time in the US, tells of a young woman caught between a lifelong desire to escape into books and a real-world revolution. It is the mid-eighties, two decades into the kleptocratic, brutal rule of Ferdinand Marcos. The Philippine economy is in deep recession, and civil unrest is growing by the day. But Primi Peregrino has her own priorities: tracking down books and pursuing romantic connections with their authors.
The narrator, Primi, has a refreshing lack of self-consciousness that gives the book the feel of another era ... Apostol grants Primi an exhilarating agency in pursuing these literary and sexual quests, merging her bookish and bodily cravings ... Apostol creates a striking contrast between wry, outlandish statements and earnest ones verging on spiritual ... These last sections have more immediacy and fully realized scenes than the rest of the book. As in many first novels, events in Bibliolepsy often occur in summaries rather than sustained scenes that extend long enough to evoke the nuances of a significant moment.
Apostol shows a beautiful light and easy touch here. There is a constant stream of wordplay and literary reference, but it is not overdone (as is so often the case in these kinds of stories with word- and book-loving narrators) ... Apostol manages the difficult balancing act here of creating a convincing character in a larger-than-life and very colorful world around her. It works in part so well because of the quick, easy style, feeling both dashed off and yet consistently to the point ... First novels, and novels featuring book-obsessed narrators, are so easily and often vastly overwritten, but Bibliolepsy is an airy delight, the writing quick and sharp. Apostol shows just the right restraint ... It's a lovely piece of work, and makes for very good reading.
Filipino author Apostol’s extraordinary latest...is a feverish tale of love and longing for the written word ... Apostol’s language is a constant delight, frank and full of felicitous turns of phrase and abundant humor. Layered and fully realized, it’s deserving of several readings.