My life—my real life—started when a man walked into it, a handsome stranger in a perfectly cut suit, and yes, I know how that sounds. My friend Linny would snort and convey the kind of multi-pronged disgust I rely on her to convey. One prong of feminist disgust at the whole idea of a man changing a woman’s life, even though, as things turned out, the man himself was more the harbinger of change than the change itself. Another prong of disgust for the inaccuracy of saying my life began after thirty-one years of living it. And the final prong being a kind of general disgust for the way people turn moments of their lives into movie moments. (p. 1)Love Walked In is the story of Cordelia, a café manager who does have a habit of turning moments of her life into movie moments; Martin, the man who walked into her café and changed her life (and who just happens to bear an uncanny resemblance to Cary Grant); and 11-year-old Clare. The novel is told from the alternating points of view of Cordelia and Clare. Cordelia’s segments are written in the first person and she occasionally addresses the reader directly, a device I generally find annoying but that only serves to create a feeling of intimacy here, as if one were having a conversation with a close friend.
I find it hard to articulate exactly why I loved this book so much—it’s the writing of course, which is fresh, original, marvellous. I want to quote reams of it in this review. Here’s another favourite passage:
On our third date, we went to a Tom Stoppard play about A. E. Housman that left me awed and exhilarated. On the way out of the theater and for blocks and blocks, I gushed about the braininess and wordplay and passion and compassion and ruthlessness and how I’d sat in the theater and trembled with the sense that what was happening onstage was turning me into a better person. Martin said he felt the same way, “Except that you were watching the play, and I was watching you.”Sure, some of the story is wildly improbable but I didn’t care. In this way, Love Walked In reminded me of The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd and Before Women Had Wings by Connie May Fowler. All three are about girls in difficult family situations** and all three contain plot elements that are unbelievable, yet as a reader I accept these stories because I wish they were true. They are fables of sorts, or, as Jennifer Weiner said about Love Walked In, “grown-up fairy tale[s].” They are stories about love in all its permutations and, despite the improbable aspects of these books, the characters are flesh and blood, human, complex. In the case of Love Walked In, the best part (once I was done reading it) is that there’s a sequel to look forward to: Belong to Me.
Amazing right? How could there be more, right? There’s more.
“I love movies, but usually plays make me restive,” I told Martin, after a pause both elated and shy.
“Oh restive. One of those words,” said Martin, nodding.
“I know,” I said, almost certain that I did.
“One of those words that mean the opposite of how they sound,” said Martin.
“I know, I said again, because I did know, exactly. “Like enervated.”
“Spendthrift,” said Martin.
“Cleave,” said Martin, who didn’t miss a trick.
On my doorstep we kissed, urgently, for somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty minutes. (pp. 43-44)
This was one of my favourite books in 2008.
For other reviews of this book, visit these blogs:
Book Addiction • Bookslut • Caribousmom • Insert Witty Title Here • Lesley’s Book Nook • Passion for the Page • The Bluestocking Society • The Places You Will Go
This is the second book I review for the LibraryThing Author Challenge.
*And yes, I know that I recently qualified The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent as “the best book I’ve read all year.” Luckily I don’t have to be monogamous in my book love!
**I must stress that the stories themselves are otherwise very different.