Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Rotary phones -- not just your everyday hipster throwback accessory!

In Rainbow Rowell's latest offering, comedy writer Georgie McCool's marriage to the artistic family man Neal is falling apart just as her chance to snag her dream job comes along. At Christmas! Because what lackluster family drama isn't improved by the pressures incumbent during that most demanding of holidays?

Luckily, she gets her pre-Christmas miracle in the form of an inexplicable connection to the past. Her old rotary phone in her mother's house mysteriously has the ability to contact Neal a week before he proposes to her (on Christmas Day! Of course!).

And so Georgie is thrust into the uncomfortable position of making a crucial choice -- does she use this phone to convince Neal not to marry her, as they're both rather miserable together despite having two adorable little girls and a poster perfect family? Or will her love, revived by these late-night conversations with past!Neal, be enough to resuscitate their relationship? And what about the chance of a lifetime to write her dream project with her hot bestie Seth?


I'm kidding, you will. It's pretty obvious from the start, really.

Disclaimer: I like Rainbow Rowell well enough (Fangirl was fun, anyway), but I did not enjoy this book. I get that the main tension is supposed to be whether or not Georgie changes the past but you never really feel any doubt about her decision. I understand that it's supposed to be a story about a woman who's trapped by a choice between her lifelong dream career and her family, and is mysteriously given a chance to start over completely.

I get all that. But for all that Rowell tries to throw sand in your eyes about what's going on, you kind of know that ultimately she'll never pick her career over her family. From the beginning, there's no real tension there in the prose to make you believe that she would. Yes, there's the handsome best friend and the chance of a lifetime to make the show she's always wanted, but early on you can tell that she's been railroaded by the magical telephone schtick because she drops the show and her responsibilities like a hot potato. I wanted to kick her out of bed to go chase after her career, never mind the relationship stuff. I guess this reflects my own preferences on the matter, but reading about her putting her career on hold and lazing around all day waiting for Neal to call just got on my nerves. Yeah, she says at the end that they could get the producer to reschedule their pitch session, but realistically, that's not gonna happen, especially on a tight media production schedule. Her (and Seth's) dream is tanked.

For book about a comedy writer dealing with a fantastic situation, Georgie McCool kind of sucks. She says several times in the book that she likes to make people laugh, but it would've been nice if Rowell did a bit more show and a little less tell. The closest I got to laughing was when the pug birth happened, but that had less to do with Georgie and more to do with her sister and the pizza delivery girl.

And what on earth was going on with the phone? Never mind why it even works that way -- it's not essential to the story and Georgie never spends time wondering why -- but the way it worked was extremely erratic. So the magical time-travel dealie thing started off with the old yellow phone and then spread to the other house landline? And Neal could call her back? If she ordered pizza using the yellow phone, would it be delivered years into the past? What if her mom or Heather used the phone, would they end up calling the past as well? The mechanics are completely messed up and but they're ultimately not supposed to matter, I guess.

Still, there have to be good things about this book, right? Rainbow Rowell hasn't made herself a household bookerd name for no reason. For starters, Heather and the pugs were pretty great. And I'll have to admit that I liked her friendship with Seth (disliked, however, how he ended up confessing to her, because it felt manipulative--both on his part and the author's) and I liked Heather and her drama. In fact, her relationship with Georgie was probably the strongest one in the whole bunch.

Wrapping this whole thing up -- if you like books where all the main character does is wring her hands over a man and lets the rest of her life fall to ruin, this is the book for you.


Post a Comment