The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik
— Adam Gopnik
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August 5, 2018
Old friends in new books
I've come to love books with recurring characters. This started, I'm sure, with all of the series mysteries I read, but it's sometimes even more enjoyable to find them in other kinds of fiction, because it's less common. But they're there! -- in Anthony Trollope, in Angela Thirkell, and sometimes in Barbara Pym.
So, I was overjoyed when I heard that these two books were coming out, because their precursors -- Allison Pearson's I don't know how she does it (2003) and Marisa de los Santos' Love walked in (2005) are long-time, special favorites of mine, and because it''s been such a long time since the original books came out. They were charming, and there were scenes in each that I've always remembered. I even decided to re-read (or, in both cases, re-listen) to the original books before the new ones arrived. I was happy to see that I still enjoyed them - especially Love walked in, which had a brilliant This Is Us-esque moment that I had not remembered at all (and an especially good narration).
I don't usually write about books that I don't especially enjoy -- and that's not the case here, I enjoyed both of these, but in both cases I think the originals will stay with me longer than the sequels. Allison Pearson's novels center on Kate Reddy, a hedge fund executive/working mother, and how she copes with both; in the new book, she is approaching her fiftieth birthday, her children are teenagers, her husband is trying to re-find himself, and, desperate for a job, Kate ends up working in a junior position at the fund she had founded in her earlier working days. I think this book would have been much less appealing if I weren't reading it as a sequel, and there was a little too much (graphic) focus on Kate's struggles with perimenopause.
Marisa de los Santos' series (there's another one in between these two) focus on the extended family that's created when Cornelia Brown, a young woman managing a Philadelphia coffee shop, ends up becoming a second mother to an eleven-year-old girl, Claire Hobbs. All of the characters she created are wonderfully drawn, and and there were plot twists and romantic entanglements to go with them. This new book opens on the day before Claire's wedding, as she meets Edith, a kind elderly lady who helps her realize that she doesn't want to marry her unstable fiance; when Edith dies and leaves her rambling ocean-side house to Claire, Claire sets out to unravel the mysteries in Edith's life. It's a little darker, and I think I was disappointed because I wanted more of the other characters, especially Cornelia and Teo.
But both books had their good moments, and I'm glad I read them, if only because they reminded me of how much I loved the originals. :)
How hard can it be?, by Allison Pearson
St. Martin's Press, 2018
Borrowed from the library
I'll be your blue sky, by Marisa de los Santos
William Morrow, 2018
Borrowed from the library
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