Monday, November 19, 2012
Audiobook Review: Landing by Emma Donoghue
Author: Emma Donoghue
Publisher: BBC Audiobooks America
Publication Date: May 1, 2007
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library
Plot Summary from Goodreads:
A delightful, old-fashioned love story with a uniquely twenty-first-century twist, Landing is a romantic comedy that explores the pleasures and sorrows of long-distance relationships--the kind millions of us now maintain mostly by plane, phone, and Internet.
Síle is a stylish citizen of the new Dublin, a veteran flight attendant who's traveled the world. Jude is a twenty-five-year-old archivist, stubbornly attached to the tiny town of Ireland, Ontario, in which she was born and raised. On her first plane trip, Jude's and Síle's worlds touch and snag at Heathrow Airport. In the course of the next year, their lives, and those of their friends and families, will be drawn into a new, shaky orbit.
This sparkling, lively story explores age-old questions: Does where you live matter more than who you live with? What would you give up for love, and would you be a fool to do so?
I read Room by Emma Donoghue a few years ago, and was completely captivated by it. So when I saw this audiobook sitting on my library's shelf, I had to go for it, in the interest of exploring Donoghue's other work. This, however, is an entirely different novel, and if her name was taken off the cover, I probably would never have guessed that she penned it. I'm not saying that as a bad thing--if anything, it shows the range of her abilities as a writer.
The beginning of the novel intrigued me. Jude, flying home to Canada after visiting her mother in the UK, realizes mid-flight that the man sitting next to her on the plane has died. Sile (pronounced Sheila) is the flight attendant that she flags down, and Sile takes charge of the situation as Jude quietly panics. The two of them end up sharing a cup of coffee after the incident is over, and a relationship is born.
I'd have to say this is probably the most unique romance novel I've read in a long time. And not because it's a lesbian romance (though I admittedly don't have a lot of that in my reading past). Sile and Jude's relationship is distinctive for so many other reasons; this is a May-September romance on crack. The 14-year age gap is one thing, but is actually a relative non-issue compared to other differences. Primarily, this includes their far-flung locations and their diverse personalities. The novel's description doesn't do those dichotomies justice. Jude is a staunch homebody, and an "old soul"...set in her ways, living in the same house she grew up in, no cell phone, and has never had an email account before meeting Sile. Sile, on the other hand, is carefree, a jet-setter, attached to her smartphone, thrives among crowds of friends in big city settings.
Honestly, despite the proclaimed chemistry between the two throughout the novel, I had a hard time truly seeing them together for most of it. They were just SO polar-opposite in many ways, that it was often difficult for me to believe that either of them would ever be willing to make the changes necessary to be with the other. I tried to suspend my disbelief as much as possible, and towards the end I started to soften towards them a bit, but that was probably my main dislike about the book. I understand the idea of "opposites attract", but I think I could have done with just a few more similarities in this case.
My favorite relationships in the novel were actually between Jude and Sile and their respective friends. Jude and Rizla (her best friend and ex-husband...kind of) have a great back-and-forth, and their history lends a lot to their interactions. Sile's friend Jael is raunchy, crude, and downright hilarious, and her friend Marcus is witty and eminently likeable. These side characters were a big part of what kept me interested in the plot.
Even though I had some trouble with the chemistry between Sile and Jude, I thought Donoghue did a good job with the progression of their relationship and the novel's ending. I mean, the whole point here is that they are both exploring their personal identities, and trying to determine what is worth changing for their partner--so despite the whole thing about them being opposites, Donoghue does delve into their inner struggles very thoroughly. Plus, I was completely unable to predict how the book would wrap up, and it was crafted it nicely--not cliched, not perfectly tied up, leaves you with a few questions unanswered. It's about as vague of an ending as a romance novel can have, without being unsatisfactory.
Overall, I'd say if you are looking for a one-of-a-kind romance, Landing is a good bet. Donoghue builds very distinctive characters (both primary and supporting), which lends a fun atmosphere to the entire novel. You may just need to be more of a believer in extreme "opposites attract" than I am! And don't expect this to be similar to Donoghue's Room--this novel is a complete gear-switch in comparison.
Other reviews of Landing:
Casey The Canadian Lesbrarian