This one… I really didn’t want to like this book. My god. The first paragraph is one of the most unbearable things I’ve ever read. It is so fucking pretentious! and I’m a pretty pretentious person a lot of the time! (look at me, I have a book review blog)
I’ll type it up tomorrow and put it up… so you can understand what I’m talking about.
The worst part is that this smug tone continues throughout most of the book. Lively’s style is just so… SMUG and bombastic at times. She’s almost daring you to put the book down and admit that you’re just not as amazing as she is. Well, fuck you, Penelope.
Okay, moving on from that… the book is actually pretty good. Considering that beginning, I was concerned – but I read it in a day. Partly because I didn’t have much to do and needed to have it done for a final on Saturday but also just because I couldn’t put it down. I mean, had I wanted to… I could have watched a movie. Many movies. Gone out, done things, written things, etc etc. Instead, I plowed through and found myself won over.
The book isn’t that happy (and the happy ending, which I’ll address, was VERY frustrating in light of the rest of the novel) – it presents London at the end of the 80s and a man who is finding himself adrift in middle age. This sounds like a plot you’ve heard before and, well, it is. But this is also different. Matthew (the main character) is a bit more philosophical than most main characters and, using a neat writerly trick, his mind wanders – a lot – and allows us to occasionally jump back in time and space. We see a man fighting fires during the Blitz, a poor orphan girl in Covent Garden, and oddly enough Martin Frobisher in the Arctic. I mean, that last makes sense in terms of the “Frobisher House” building that Matthew is working on (he’s an architect) but the jump in space AND time is weird. It just felt a bit out of place.
I sort of wish there’d been more resolution to the plot with Rutter. He was set up as this very intimidating guy and then… I mean, I guess its more “realistic” that he fades out like he does but I wanted him to be a sort of Frank Costello, really Shakespearean-ly bad. That’d have been much more interesting.
The ending. I won’t give anything away except to say that the sunniness of the ending was really disappointing to me. Matthew’s sadness, yes, needed to be alleviated for the reader to feel the catharsis at the end… but the way it happened seemed so abrupt. Maybe that’s how it happens, I don’t know. I guess I do know, I guess that IS how it happens but still. It just felt a little too abrupt for me.
To Sum Up: Alright, well…. this book falls into that “pleasant” surprise category, where you’d expected something shit and when it turned out not-half-bad, that ended up being pretty good. Now, on to that pleasure reading I’d been talking about…