Book Review: Landline By Rainbow Rowell


 Landline Book Review

Landline by Rainbow Rowell wasn’t at all what I expected it to be. I expected this to be a romantic young adult book but what I got was a lesson in life and in love. This story is written from the perspective of Georgie McCool, a thirty-something woman who is married with two children. She’s busy trying to make it as the script writer for a major Television show but in the meantime she’s let her family life slide. It’s nearing Christmas day in 2013 and Georgie finally gets the call that she, and her partner (and best friend) Seth, have been waiting for. A major television producer wants their show.
The problem is, this means Georgie has got a week to whip up four episodes worth of content, during which time she’s supposed to be celebrating Christmas in Omaha with Neal, her husband, and his family in Omaha. She tells Neal that she can’t go and to her surprise, he takes the kids and leaves without her. Thinking she’s really blown it this time, Georgie ends up back in the comfort of her childhood home, but when she calls Neal from her old telephone, it’s not her Neal that picks up, but a Neal from twenty years ago. Georgie has somehow managed to communicate with her husband from the past, but is unsure of what she should do with this power.

Although Landline sounds like it is mainly about Georgie being glued to a phone that is somehow connected to the past, that’s not what this book is about at all. Now thinking about it, this book is very simple. It basically details the antics of Georgie McCool from December 17th through to Christmas Day. Taking place over a mere nine days, I feel like I’ve lived a lifetime with Georgie. Rowell has seamlessly weaved bits from the past into a story that takes place in the present in such a way that you don’t even realise it’s happening. There are rather a lot of books emerging on the market right now that involve either time travel or the past and present colliding and Landline is definitely one of the forerunners in this new craze.
I am thoroughly amazed at the author’s ability to capture the mind of her protagonists. In my review of Eleanor & Park, also by Rowell, I noted how impressed I was by her insight into the mind of a teenage girl, given that, obviously, she is no longer a teenage girl. The same sort of thing applies to Landline, I am thoroughly amazed at how Rowell has captured the thoughts of Georgie McCool, a thirty-something mother and wife, though in this case, Rowell is both.
Georgie’s narrative sounds completely authentic and she’s not a perfect character, but she is wholly human. I am so tired of reading novels about perfect heroins or people that we should ‘aspire’ to be like when I’d much rather be reading about, for want of a better phrase, the girl next door. I am an eighteen year old girl; I don’t know what it’s like to be a wife or a mother but I could still wholeheartedly relate to Georgie. I think there’s a part of Georgie in every human being, a part of each person who has no idea what they’re doing in life, so Landline could be enjoyed by anyone of any gender, age or race.
What’s amazing is that Landline wasn’t sappy in the slightest. Yes, it is predominantly about recapturing romance and love, but somehow this doesn’t overpower the story. Georgie’s story didn’t make me cry nor did it give me butterflies in my stomach, but there was something about it that made me want to keep reading. This book was nice. Not in a bad way, but in the best possible way.
Nice has become a somewhat pejorative adjective so some of you may be confused as to why I’m using it to describe this book that I’m speaking about with so much praise, but reading this book really was a nice experience. I read Landline in one sitting, but I didn’t ‘speed’ through it, it was more of an amble really, a pleasant walk through Rowell’s words. There are so many quotable passages from this story that it was simply impossible for me to note them all down. Every few pages I would have to set my book down and reflect for a few seconds on what I had just read. There is something profoundly true and moving about this Rowell’s writing and he made me see love and life in a completely different way.
Curiously, not all loose ends are tied up at the end of this novel, and for once, this didn’t bother me! The endings of novels are a constant source of bother for me, but I was actually really content when I finished reading Landline. Rowell doesn’t give us an answer for everything, but I found that I didn’t need one, which, ironically, was something I learnt from reading this book.
Landline teaches you about how to approach love, family and life but it doesn’t present Georgie’s actions as the only way forwards. There are lots of ifs and buts along the way but I never felt like the author was imposing her opinions on the matter onto the reader which gives you a certain freedom to interpret this book how you wish. Rowell throws a different light onto scenarios that countless authors before her have explored and I feel like I’m looking at the future in a slightly different way now.
All in all, Landline is a throughly good read, an inexplicably unputdownable tale that is impossible not to enjoy. This is something that everybody needs to read before carrying on with their lives because I firmly believe that every reader will carry away with them something profound and enlightening from Rowell’s work.
Available in UK bookstores from the 31st July 2014.

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