Book Title: Landline
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Date Published: July 8th, 2014
Date Read: March 21st, 2014
Format: ARC! Love ’em
Cover Love: I’m a big fan of simple, graphic covers. The giant phone is great. I love the font of the title. But I’m not a huge fan of when the author’s name is larger than the title.
“Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now.
Maybe that was always besides the point.
Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.
When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.
That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .
Is that what she’s supposed to do?
Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?”
What I’d Add: Maybe it’s just me, but I was under the impression, after reading this synopsis, that every time Georgie uses this phone, she reaches Neal at a different point in their relationship. This is not the case. She talks to him at a fixed point in their relationship when they weren’t talking, and weren’t in the same city. I don’t know why, but I felt the need to clarify this. Also, that synopsis seems SUPER melodramatic.
It’s Sorta Like: The writing style and some of the emotional turmoil reminds me a little of Jodi Picoult’s writing style. I thought the plot would be more Time Traveler’s Wife-y than it was, so that was a little disappointing.
My Grade: C-
I’m actually glad that I haven’t read any of Rowell’s other novels yet. It made me go into this one unbiased (her YA works are on my to-read list, however).
I zoomed through it; it’s an easy, accessible, one might say “fluffy” read. The characters are, for the most part, unique and memorable.
But I have to say, I wasn’t crazy about it.
Georgie herself is a Hot Mess Character. She spends most of the novel in outfits of questionable cleanliness, has the World’s Most Annoying Cellphone in that it cannot work unless she has it plugged in (thus the magic landline phone), and waffles between “doing her job” (aka NOT doing her job), and worrying incessantly about her absent husband. Somehow, she’s just likable enough for me not to want to wring her neck over all the stupid things she thinks and does. It’s good that Rowell includes flashbacks to instances when Georgie was NOT a Hot Mess. It made me relate to and like her a little bit more.
So, the other half to our Hot Mess Protagonist: her husband, Neal. The Neal we most get to know is Past Neal. And there are two Past Neals: the Neal who speaks to Georgie on the landline, the first time they were separated, right before they married, and the Neal Georgie first gets to know, told in flashback as Georgie meets him and starts dating him.
Here’s my problem with Neal: he’s not unbelievably likable (this is not to say that every character in every novel should be likable in some form. Boy, would books be boring if that were the case). I would have rooted for Georgie and Neal more if Neal had shown some tenderness and even tact for half of his scenes. He’s standoffish, he’s flaky, he’s brusque. The only sweet moments we see with him and Georgie are moments he’s half asleep and/or trying to sleep with her. I can’t relate to him or to his and Georgie’s relationship/marriage.
Something else: Georgie’s job is the reason she doesn’t accompany her husband and two children to Omaha for Christmas. She has the opportunity to pitch this sitcom that she has created with her best friend to a bigwig in the TV industry, so she stays behind to write the required four episodes. Buuuuuut: we never know what this sitcom is about. I couldn’t tell you who the characters are, what the premise is, what makes this show so different from every other project Georgie’s been a part of. This is supposed to be really important to this character. I want it to be important to me too, but I’m kept out of it. So much of their script writing time is described as “Scott pitched a joke,” “I wrote on the whiteboard,” “we started from scratch on this episode we’d been working on” (these are not actual quotes, but they’re essentially the action that happens when Georgie tries to work on Passing Time (that’s the name of the sitcom, also telling me nothing about the show she’s supposedly devoted to)). I want to root for Georgie. I think I want this show of hers to succeed and for her not going to Omaha to mean something. But I know nothing about her work, this supposedly vital part of her.
The book ended clumsily and abruptly for me. It actually built up very well. I was turning pages rapidly to see what would happen. When something finally did happen, the book ends with little satisfaction. I don’t actually know how these characters are going to act after the closing scenes of this book (I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll leave it at that).
Landline has some solid, funny characters. Rowell is great at dialogue, she knows how to craft a scene, and as a whole, the book is, at a base level, enjoyable. But the main characters are frustrating. I feel like I’m not let in on some secret for them: Georgie’s job, Neal’s appeal, etc. I look forward to reading Rowell’s other work. Hopefully they will shine differently than Landline.