I’m ambivalent about this book for a number of reasons. Let me start with the pros. It’s a book about adults, which is always refreshing. Not just young adults flailing around trying to find True Love, but people with some mileage on them. The protagonist is a 60-ish woman who has spent forty-one years in a loveless marriage with a man who makes her feel, at best, like a servant. She’s been there, done that, and wants it to stop. Most of the rest of the cast are older men and women who have some serious history, and it’s refreshing to see them doing more than just being the wise older friend. It’s a book about a woman by a woman. It’s a book about saying “yes” to all of life, not just the big, amazing parts. That alone makes me like it very much. Also, George’s writing is smooth and readable.
The cons: It’s contrived and soap-operaesque. Instead of walking out on her horrible husband, Marianne decides to kill herself. Could she BE a bigger drama queen? The supporting characters are pretty one-dimensional, particularly the man Marianne eventually falls for. There’s a lot of the Mary Sue about Marianne (For those who don’t know, a Mary Sue is an idealized and seemingly perfect fictional character. Often this character is recognized as an author insert or wish-fulfillment.) because once you get past all that self-effacement, you’ll find that she is the most competent person on the planet. No kidding, she can do anything. And she’s gorgeous but doesn’t know it, but a make-over makes her even more stunning so that even her insensitive husband thinks “Wow, how did I not see that?” which puts it into the realm of revenge fic.
By comparison to “The Little Paris Bookshop” which I loved, this is a lazy effort, at least in my opinion. And that’s a shame because it could have been so much better. The story is there waiting for Nina George to make the effort, something of which I know she is capable. I’ve seen her do it. To be completely honest, I started out giving it four stars because I do like her work, but the more I thought about how short-changed her characters are in this, by comparison to what I know she’s capable of doing, the more annoyed I became. Thus, three stars.
If she was to rewrite this (which she won’t; what author does that?) and make this story everything it should be, I would read the hell out of it. As it stands, it just makes me sad.