When you think of the reading habits of your average 28 year old man, I bet I can guess exactly what the first two words that come to your mind are: lesbian romance.
Yeah, that’s what I figured you would be thinking. But then again I wouldn’t describe my reading habits to be similar to, well, anyone really. I usually look through bookstores and pick up books that interest me, which when you’re a nerd and someone who has interests all over the map, that can end up with me reading some fairly odd things. Some time ago I read the book Room by Emma Donoghue, and a while ago when walking through Barnes & Noble I was looking through her other books, and the premise for this one was really interesting to me. So as I am one to do, I bought the book and just finished reading it today, so on with the review.
Dublin Ireland in the early 90’s, with lots of flashbacks over the 15 years before the events of the book.
Penelope and Cara have been in a loving relationship off and on for the past 13 years, but that quickly changes when Cara dies on her way back from a vacation in Greece. Now Penelope has to deal with the aftermath of her lover’s death. The exact words from the back of the book ask how she can survive widowhood without daring to claim the word? The book is really a well drawn portrait of a character dealing with an extremely difficult situation.
The main character is Penelope, and the book is entirely from her viewpoint. Pen is a very quiet character, and as a result she takes a lot of time to examine the other characters in the book and you get a very good idea of who the rest of the characters are through her observations. I liked Pen as a character and I think that anyone who is usually quiet and spends a lot of time observing people will identify with her.
It’s weird to say that I enjoyed a book written about a grieving woman, but I liked the book. I thought it was one of the most realistic books that I’ve read in some time, with Pen constantly going off on tangents and getting distracted by things she sees throughout the week, things that remind her of both the good and bad times with Cara. I also thought it was an interesting to watch her thoughts about how she was dealing with hiding a fairly large aspect of her life from everyone she knows. That really struck a cord with me since I do something similar with hiding my anxiety issues and panic attacks from most of the people that I know.
Early in my reading of the book I was going to say that the narrative voice wasn’t quite as strong as it was with Jack from Room, but thinking about it after finishing the book I think it was more of that simply Pen being a very reluctant character. All things considered, this is one of the more unique books that I’ve ever read, and it deals with a difficult topic very effectively, while doing one of the best jobs that I’ve ever seen of expressing the thoughts that run through a person’s mind on a daily basis.
I suppose I should give a little warning and say that there is some graphic content in the book, but it fits well within the story. It also shows some of the degree of love between the two characters and adds to the sense of loss that Pen is experiencing.
‘Ah, come on, you know that real loneliness is having no one to miss. Think yourself lucky you’ve known something worth missing.’
Definitely not for everyone, but if you’re willing to give it a chance, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.