St. Martin’s Press, July 2014
“We’ll make our own enough.”
Rating: 4/5 stars
Gods of Egypt, I remember saying that I did not trust the name of the author, suspicious, I mean seriously, Rainbow? I did not like much her writing style in Eleanor and Park thus I was surprised to read this book and find it, shall I say, less of a headache. It was like reading a novel from a different writer, and not only once did I stare at the cover to assure myself that Rowell really did write this one.
Okay so for the summary (which I must find obligatory in the second paragraph). Landline is a story about the crumbling marriage of a writer Georgie McCool (she’s a comedy writer, thus the necessity for the name), and how she discovered the very reason of her marriage problem by, wait for it, speaking to his fifteen-year younger husband from the past via a magic phone (yes, a magic phone).
I know it doesn’t sound compelling, and readers might ignore the book once they have read the summary (some job for the summary writer), but this is not your ordinary book. Landline is one of the books I finished reading in record time (title holder: Deathly Hallows, 1 hour) and for several reasons. First, as I said, was the writing style. It’s so smooth that you could read it even aboard a fast bus without having a headache. Second were the characters. I particularly like Neal Grafton, Georgie’s husband. It was like reading a description of me. “He’s short and hobbity. He’s a scowler. He’s the least friendly hobbit in the shire.” Contrasting it with a Georgie, a character which is much unlike that of Neal (social power: check) was a good move. Third was the story itself, it really is a page turner, the way you would like to read Georgie’s every conversation with his husband in the past while visiting the flashbacks, their story, how they met, why on earth Georgie was mesmerized with Neal, and why even still, Neal became interested with Georgie. Throw in a good looking best friend, Seth, and you have the picture.
“If you were standing next to the person you loved more than everything else, wasn’t everything else just scenery?”
The story tries to answer the fundamental questions about love but like others before it, it failed greatly, leaving more questions than answers. But it was refreshing (and a learning experience) to read about the perspectives of an adult and how it evolved, how they see the world right now compared to how they see it when they were teenagers. But what is compelling in here is that you could never have guess the ending of the story, for it could go either way, and so you would be forced to finish reading it immediately to know for yourself. After reading the last page, I am convinced that, maybe, we could all plug in an old phone, so we ourselves could find, and hear, some of the answers we are looking for.
The phone conversations (all of them including that one moment that Georgie talked again with Neal’s dead dad)
“I can work with you here.” He didn’t look up.
“I can even work if you talk.”
Georgie settled back in the chair, hesitantly. “Okay.”
Neal added another thought bubble to her caricature: “Now what am I supposed to say?!?!”
Then he drew a thought bubble coming out of the bottom of the page, pointing back at himself: “Anything you want, Georgie McCool.”
And then a smaller thought bubble: “If that is your real name . . .”
“I love you more than I hate everything else.”
“He didn’t laugh when he thought something was funny–he laughed when he was happy.”
“That’s what love is, Georgie. Accidental damage protection.”
From the Critics:
“(Landline) is the first (among Rowell’s books) to feature an outright science fiction element in the time-blurring phone. It’s a deliciously clever device: Using the increasingly obsolete landline as an anchor, foothold or portal into the past is a great idea, especially when the past in question isn’t yet distant enough to be alien. As a metaphor for returning to a root-deep connection in the face of signal noise and distortion, it’s excellent — but ultimately, it works better as meta commentary than effective storytelling tool.” –NPR Books
“There’s nothing sophisticated about “Landline,” nor is there any clutter. But there’s the simple story of a woman suddenly able to imagine how important her husband has been to her, and how easily she managed to overlook him. What that film accomplished with an angel named Clarence, Ms. Rowell accomplishes with a quaint old means of communication, and for her narrative purposes, it really does the trick.” –New York Times