The Other Side of the Page: Books and Comics
A Portrait of a Marriage, Breaking: Review of Rainbow Rowell's "Landline"
I don’t know if I would’ve read and enjoyed Landline: A Novel if I wasn’t married. I picked it up after devouring Fangirl, and had to read another book by author Rainbow Rowell immediately. The library had Landline
available, and it sounded promising, so I picked it up. I’m not a fan of marriage books. But it was the skill and depth of character nuances and relationships that Rowell displayed in Fangirl that made me want to read it. I don’t know how to explain it, but it was as if the characters were very real, and I had viewed them afar as I read the novel.
Landline is about Georgie McCool (yes, real name) and her career that’s threatening to overtake her marriage to Neal, the stay-at-home husband who takes care of their two kids, Alice and Naomi (Noomi in most of the book).
I’ve never been a fan of “marriage books,” especially if the novel concerns a marriage that’s making its slow inevitable crawl towards being marked on a form of dissolution. I’ve never felt drawn to those stories, because while they may be incredibly written, they just don’t strike me.
Georgie works as a writer on a television show Jeff’d Up, but when her pilot for her long-time project Passing Time might be greenlit, a dramedy she’s developed with her writing partner since college, it conflicts with Christmas. The pair have to write several new scripts for the show if it stands a chance, and that has to occur right before the holidays.
She must now choose Seth and the show over Neal and family commitments to stay in Los Angeles, rather than fly to Omaha to spend the week of Christmas with Neal’s mother. She chooses the show, because this is her dream, and Neal chooses to go without her. That all changes with one yellow phone. One night when Georgie stays with her mother after she decides not to go home to an empty house, she plugs in an old landline* phone.
This landline somehow connects her to Neal in 1998, before they’re married and before he even proposed. Georgie is freaked out at the prospect but gradually begins to wonder why she can talk to Neal in the past, and if there’s something she should do. She begins to go over the events leading to their marriage, and how she and Neal have evolved, from young married twentysomethings to a family of four. The Hollywood-ready premise should (will probably) be a movie, and brings up the same questions as Sliding Doors. What if I had this way instead of that? What if I had chosen X instead of Y? Would I be happy? Would we be happy?
DID I LIKE IT? WOULD YOU LIKE IT?
If you read Fangirl, and want to try a new Rainbow Rowell book, you might try Landline
Some of the book went on a bit too much, with conversations that could’ve been shortened, scant detail about some events, and endless detail about others. A NPR commentator remarked that the book felt uneven, and I could see why. I also wasn’t very fond of present Georgie at all, and the disconnect she seemed to have for her children (and I don’t have kids). There were times when her idiosyncrasies got to me, like she just was stunted in growth, however, I can recognize that sometimes people aren’t likable at all, and aren’t meant to be in entertainment. Rowell, for her part, kept the character from being so irritating that I didn’t leave the book and instead I read to the end.
There was a side cast of characters including Georgie’s mom, sister and stepfather I really enjoyed. I didn’t care at all for Seth, the best friend and writing partner. I loved past and present Neal. The novel itself was a nice distraction and a sci-fi bender that wasn’t overtly sci-fi, and was more accessible to me, probably, because of that point. Like Stacey, the blogger @ Pretty Books said in her review, the time jumps were a bit hard to get used to, but it was good to see how the characters and the relationships evolved. [spoiler]I also didn’t like how the phone wasn’t exactly explained.[/spoiler]
I love you more than I hate anything else.
“I take for granted that you’ll be there when I’m done doing whatever it is I’m doing. I take for granted that you’ll love me no matter what.”
I imagine if I heard these quotes outside of the novel, perhaps in a twee romantic comedy, they would make me cringe, however, it’s the writing and context of the book that makes them poignant.
TALK BACK – oPERATORS ARE WAITING
Just respond in the comments. Does this sound like a novel you’d pick up?
- Have you read Rainbow Rowell’s books before?
- If you’re over 20, how old did this novel make you feel with the use of a landline?!
- Did you like Georgie?
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