First of all, I need to tell everyone who plans to read this that the audiobook is painful - not figuratively but literally. It hurt my ears. The voice is sharp and barking, which is perfect for the character, but my ears couldn't take it, so go with the printed version if you believe anything I have to say.
Zebra (formerly Bibi Abbas Abbas Hosseini, AKA "Dame of the Void",) the main character, is quite a challenge, though she knows it so that makes her a bit more bearable. She's a nut, but a good nut. Zebra was born, quite literally, in a library among the books in Iran early in the war against Iraq. She is the last in a long line of autodidacts, all of whom pledge to “Love nothing except literature.” As an exile or refugee, it's hard to live and breathe literature. So they do it through memorization, and Zebra has committed to memory passages from every book imaginable. She takes her commitment to love nothing but literature very seriously, and she has no time to waste on people who don't share her passion for reason, which makes Zebra very alone if not lonely, with only an extremely crotchety bird making her life even more insane and helping to keep the people away.
Not only is she alone...perhaps, when she imagines her dead father counseling her against love, she is actually using literature as a defense against all of the crushing aloneness she's experiencing. (She, very reasonably, fears love, but she will never - ever - admit that, so she's built the most literate psychological defense system ever to avoid all the trouble that comes with people. Books are so simple compared to people, I think we can all agree.)
Beckett, Blanchod, Borges are her creed. She constantly runs through all the advice she's memorized to reason herself back into the perceived "right" frame of mind. She has to advance the matrix of literature, she has to experience the void to figure out "what is [my] role in my miserly, ill-fated life?"
I can relate to a lot of this. I'm sort of well-known in my therapy sessions for assiduously avoiding talk about feelings and other unmeasurable squishy things by citing research and getting very worked up about my theories and plotting studies that must be done NOW. Zebra was a lesson for me in exactly how annoying I am. Zebra is sure she can create a statistical formula for life, for literature, and eventually for love. She is almost sure she's an oracle - the last bastion of hope in a world that forgets all of her important things, like every single quote ever about anything. Sentimentality is bad. Reason and knowledge are good. People are morons and deserve every scolding she gives them. This is what she molds her life around...until she meets Ludo.
"A soul that knows it is loved but does not itself love betrays its sediment; what is at the bottom comes up." -- Nietzsche
So, Zebra has some very basic lessons to learn, and Ludo mostly deals with her running away from him, diving back between the book covers. All the while she stridently barks quotes at the reader until this reader was ready to either submit or give up completely. What I decided to do was set it down for a week and pick it back up. That break was what I needed. It didn't hurt that Zebra herself was in the process of being broken down too. She finally figures out, painfully, that perhaps home and people and love of something other than literature might be worth it. "Had I been waiting in vain for my life to become legible?"
As I said, she's a good nut.