Thursday, July 14, 2011

Non-Laughter Review: PILLOW TALK

Freya North

Sourcebooks, July 2011 (reissue)

Women's Fiction

Premise: After a brief period of non-acted upon attraction when they were teens, a London jeweller and rural teacher meet again.

Cover: Title - Relevant on two levels: it signals 'relationships' as theme, and points to the sleepwalking and insomnia that bedevil hero and heroine. Art - colors and cartoonish font and illustration look like classic chicklit, and the story contains several elements that point in that direction (if we all did not know that Chicklit Is Dead. Or so we keep being told). Altogether, the cover gives a good indication of what the reader will find inside.

What Works: It is very easy to like the protagonists. Artist Petra is passionate about her work, good to her friends, and doggedly determined to keep up her relationships with her divorced parents and stepsiblings despite zero energy on their part to make an effort in that direction. Arlo is a former rock singer/songwriter who now teaches music at an uppercrust private school, and seems genuinely fond of his pupils and sincere in carrying out his duties.

Their story is not about tumultuous passion or wild adventure, but rather, the quiet moments and steps that build up on each other to help everyday people decide whether a relationship is worth sticking with or no longer functional. This is pretty much the opposite of what happens in genres like urban fantasy, space opera, or stories that involve, let's say, espionage, so it is a refreshing and thoughtful change from those types of novels.

Apprentice Writer also found it interesting how sleep was used to underscore what is going on. How, where, with whom, how effectively we do it - all become symbolic of trust and affection. AW liked how it was developed beyond the simple euphemism for sex that is often deployed in contemporary fiction.

What Doesn't: The story hinges heavily on the protagonists not knowing how to get in touch with one another. As young(ish), hip(ish), (partial) Londoners, this trampled AW's suspension of belief. Just because the protagonists liked riding bikes does not convince her that they were so retro that don't know how to operate Facebook, Google, or even something so low-tech as a phone directory.

There was also a moment when the Petra thought she was reliving a very negative experience with her former boyfriend all over again with Arlo, and takes certain immediate action without allowing Arlo even a minimum of opportunity to share his point of view. AW supposes that the reader was intended to take this as a sign of the degree of hurt she had experienced. The way it came off, though, was as childish. It felt like one step away from being too immature to be deserving of the genuine adult relationship she had set her sights on.

Overall: A pleasant beach read, especially for those who miss stories in a chicklit direction.

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