I nearly said no when Rosy Thornton emailed me with a request to review her book, Crossed Wires. Unlike many bloggers who have commented that they like the cover to this book, I was put off by it. It’s too pink and cutesy for my taste (and what’s with all those hearts?). Luckily, I didn’t completely judge this book by its cover: I was intrigued enough by Thornton’s writing style on her website (in the “How It Began” section in particular) that I went looking for book reviews. The first one I came across was Moira’s review at Vulpes Libris, which reassured me in the first paragraph: “I was well into Chapter Three of Crossed Wires before I realized that, contrary to appearances (for which read ‘seriously pink cover’), it wasn’t a piece of inconsequential romantic fluff at all, but something far deeper and much more subtle.” Her glowing review convinced me to give the novel a try and I’m very glad I did.
Crossed Wires is the story of Mina, a woman who works in a car insurance call centre. She lives in Sheffield with her daughter, Sal, and her 17-year-old sister, Jess. The novel’s other main character is Peter, a geography professor in Cambridge, who has twin daughters, Cassie and Kim. Mina and Peter “meet” over the phone when Peter crashes his car into a tree stump, and the novel is told from their alternating points of view. This is a sweet (but never sappy) story that addresses several serious themes (loss, prejudice and the trials and tribulations of single parenthood, among others) with a light and funny touch.
For plot-related reasons, Thornton doesn’t initially describe her characters physically (at least not in detail), but she’s great at providing those quirky little details that make you feel like you really know them. For example, here’s how we’re introduced to Mina’s mum: “She always used too much detergent and never rinsed, comfortable in the belief that soap was clean and that swallowing quantities of it could therefore not be bad for you. The convictions of her generation came from before they’d invented the environment . . .” (p. 13). And here’s a great detail about Peter: “Peter moved behind Jeremy, careful not to obstruct his soft northerly light, and watched the bold, black strokes appearing. He himself would have hated to be watched—even playing Pictionary gave him stage fright—but Jeremy never seemed to mind” (p. 67). (I particularly love this detail about Peter because I can completely relate—Pictionary gives me stage fright too!) The only character I felt I didn’t get to know well enough was Jess, Mina’s younger sister, and perhaps for that reason the resolution to her story seemed a bit too quick and tidy in the end, but this is a minor quibble.
Although the cover to this book makes it look like fluff, don’t let that fool you. I highly recommend this wise and funny novel. Thornton’s two previous novels (More Than Love Letters and Hearts and Minds) are now on my wish list, regardless of what their covers look like!
To read other reviews of this book, visit these blogs:
2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews • A Book Worm’s World • As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves • Blue Archipelago • Bookersatz • Book Gazing • Bookishly Attentive • BookNAround • Books and Movies • Bookstack • Caribousmom • MariReads • Presenting Lenore • Reading Is My Superpower • Serendipity • Shelf Life • Shelf Love • The Biblio Blogazine • The Zen Leaf (first read) • The Zen Leaf (reread) • Violet Crush • Vulpes Libris • write meg!
Read an interview with Rosy Thornton at Vulpes Libris.
Read Thornton’s guest post at Vulpes Libris entitled “Books Should Be Books” (which indirectly addresses my judgement of her book by its cover!).
Thank you to Rosy Thornton for sending me this book to review.
This is the fifth book I review for the New Authors Challenge.
This is also the second book I review for the LibraryThing Author Challenge.