Monday, January 26, 2015
Musing on Rainbow Rowell's Landline
So, I just finished Rainbow Rowell's Landline. I finally got around to it (it's been in my to-read pile pretty much since it was published) and I loved it. What's funny is, most people didn't. Perhaps one of the reasons I put it off so long is that I remembered all of the fairly middling to negative reviews I saw on blogs when it first came out. On Goodreads it has the lowest star rating average of any of her novels. Why? In almost every case it was because the reader felt they couldn't identify with the main characters. They didn't understand why Georgie loved Neal. They didn't understand why Neal loved Georgie. They didn't find their marriage an interesting subject.
It's an interesting one for me, because the reason I loved Landline was because of how perfectly it resonated. NOT because my marriage is in trouble folks. But because Rainbow Rowell perfectly encapsulated what mature love is like. The real, deep love that comes with knowing someone for a very long time and continuing to love them after all that time. The love that comes with building a family with someone, and generally sharing a life. That's an extremely difficult topic to do well and I think Rainbow Rowell just did it the best I've ever seen it done. And I wonder how many reader's found that Landline (and Georgie and Neal's marriage specifically) didn't work for them because they don't know that experience themselves. A majority of the negative reviews I've seen have been by teenage reader and teenage bloggers (or those who are in general, by their own admission, not married). I've even seen a few of those who are more contemplative in their reviewing style readily admit that might be the root cause.
I also wonder if this is at the root of those who don't understand why Georgie and Neal love each other. Rowell not only captures mature love, but she captures a very specific love story (as arguably, she has done in all of her novels so far). Georgie loves Neal because he complements her, and vice versa. It's worth thinking about - I think most people could look at almost any relationship outside of their own and ask why one person loves the other. Love isn't an obvious thing. Rainbow Rowell has this unqiue way of pulling out the details of a love story in a way that makes it feel more like truth than fiction. Like she has picked a random couple, got into their heads and written a novel about them (and a magical phone). I have my own love story. I love my husband. Other people might not understand why I love my husband, but that doesn't make my love for him any less important. And in some ways, I think the 'whys' of Georgie and Neal loving each other in Landline isn't all that important either. At the crux of Landline is a simple story - there is a life time of love, but the love has gone astray somewhere along the line. Can it be fixed? And even if it can, should it be? Is it enough?
What do you think? Is the fault in Landline that it's just not relatable enough? Or is it just not relatable for those who haven't experienced the type of relationship Rowell is writing about? Did you love Landline like I did? (please note, I am not trying to offend anyone by my musings and am not being a pro-marriage advocate, disrespect single people etc. I just think these things are interesting to think about).