Aug 11 2015

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Deeply moral and achingly romantic, this is a book about a woman inadvertently reaching into the past to try to fix problems in her marriage to a man she desperately loves. Rainbow Rowell is a terrific writer of dialog and characters, and though Landline felt a bit shallow in places (by which I don’t mean superficial, just that there was an odd lack of detail and depth despite there being much of emotional substance,) it’s a compulsively readable book. The magical telephone conceit was cute and deftly handled, if clearly requiring a large suspension of disbelief: I considered its use a sort of American magical realism. I also thought Georgie a terrific heroine, even as I had both warm feelings and significant concerns regarding her primary relationships with men.

Firstly, there’s the best friend, Seth. It’s so freaking difficult to find books that celebrate male-female friendships that aren’t bogged down by overt a/o physical romance. It was refreshing to see Georgie stand up for her friendship with Seth, though I thought it a bit wish-fulfillment-y for him to declare his love for her — because ffs, I tell my friends I love them all the time, it’s no big deal. And also, who doesn’t love their close personal friends? They become like family, but ones you choose. Anyway, it felt a little unnatural for the character as he’d been depicted up to that point, but people can surprise you, I suppose.

Latterly, there’s the husband, Neal. I didn’t really like him. I mean, he does a lot for the family, but he’s super passive-aggressive, and it was difficult for me to watch Georgie turn herself inside out for him. It really bothered me that Georgie seemed to be okay with being the only one working on their relationship. As the breadwinner of the family, Georgie deserved a lot more slack, I felt, for working so hard at a job she loved, especially with the opportunity of a lifetime looming before her. I felt that Neal was perfectly justified in heading back to Omaha with the kids, but his silent treatment of her from thereon in was pretty shitty.

And I think this speaks to the pressures that a lot of modern women feel, especially those who are the primary earners in their families. I felt like Georgie was being punished for being ambitious — and while I know that that’s not at all what Ms Rowell was going for with this book, it still bothered me that poor Georgie felt so responsible for so much. Earn the money, achieve your ambitions, parent your kids, be a good daughter and sister: that’s all well and good, but why does she ALSO have to be the main person responsible for the health and happiness of her marriage?

Otherwise, as enjoyable as you’d expect from Rainbow Rowell (tho I still liked Fangirl better.)

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