Book Review: Crosstalk by Connie Willis

Crosstalk by Connie Willis
(Publisher Advance Copy)

A great new geeky romantic novel by Connie Willis, Crosstalk will appeal to lovers of Jennifer Crusie, Rainbow Rowell and Graeme Simsion

Readers of Jennifer Crusie, Rainbow Rowell and Graeme Simsion will likely enjoy Crosstalk, the latest romantic novel from the queen of humorous and entertaining Science Fiction, Connie Willis.

Briddie Flannigan works for a mobile phone company working on a big new release to rival Apple’s latest offering.  Simultaneously, her boyfriend Trent pops a very millennial question, asking her to join him in undertaking a neurological procedure that will bring them closer by allowing them to directly feel one another’s emotions.  When things go slightly awry with the procedure, Briddie must reevaluate many aspects of both her life and modern life in general, guided by an unlikely support team: scruffy and quirky anti hero C.B. Schwartz, a colleague of hers at the mobile phone company; and her precocious 9-year old niece Maeve.

One thing that has always simultaneously delighted and perplexed me about Connie Willis is her ability to have her finger on the  social pulse, while often discounting or neglecting crucial technological developments.  The absence of a portable phone system in Willis’s 2050 Oxford in Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog is infuriating at times, but I also recognise that the grim chaos and confusion of Doomsday Book, and the extreme farce of To Say Nothing of the Dog couldn’t have happened without the plot device that the lack of mobile telephony enables.  Willis makes up for this technological oversight in Crosstalk by embracing the mobile phone trope, and ramping up connectivity to an unbearable level.  I don’t want to provide too many spoilers, but it is very fair to say that this is definitely a novel about connection fatigue.

And in the modern world, what better connection is there than love?  I have always adored Willis’s romantic subplots, as she has intelligent, self-possessed heroines and a gorgeous line of attractive anti-heroes.  Her romantic heroes are never alpha males, are often slightly bumbling and scruffy or socially inept, but reveal themselves to be sensitive, intelligent and have the kind of hidden depths and social intelligence you only encounter upon getting to know someone a little better.  Crosstalk explores not only connection fatigue, but also romance fatigue in general. In many ways, this is a romance novel for readers who are sick of or suspicious of romance.

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Chick Lit

(FOR PEOPLE WHO DON’T THINK THEY LIKE CHICK LIT)

marilyn reading

Chick Lit is a term many of us love to hate.  As Lucy-Ann Holmes said in her excellent article – hate the term, love the genre.  But for those who don’t like the genre, or are still biased against women’s fiction: forget about the publishing marketplace and how booksellers think they will best sell books, and forget the notion that all contemporary women’s fiction is ‘fluff’.

The following books are all moving and/or funny in the ways we like our fiction to be, giving us a little escape and inspiration with our recreational reading.  They are also, however, equal parts: quirky, unexpected (in that they often subvert your standard romance conventions), and very, very clever.

Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Bellwether by Connie Willis
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer
The Time Traveler’s Wife  by Audrey Niffenegger
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Book Review: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
(Publisher Advance Copy)

eligible

It is a truth (almost) universally acknowledged, that there are myriad ways to find love in the 21st century.  Mrs Bennett may still take some convincing, but over the course of Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible, the modern Bennett girls of Cincinnati discover that love and happiness come in many forms.

There have been several modern reboots of Pride and Prejudice in the last decade, notably Bridget Jones, Bride and Prejudice and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and I have found each enjoyable for it’s creator’s reshaping of a classic story.  For the reader, there is a certain glee in knowing the ins and outs of the story, but not the particulars. I always appreciate the slow reveal as everything comes together and the particulars in Eligible are particularly well done.

Enter Longbourn as a neglected, cluttered mock-tudor mansion on one of Cincinnati’s best streets.  Elizabeth is a 38 year old journalist and Jane a 40 year old yoga instructor, both home from a decade in New York to help out with the family after Mr Bennett has a health scare.  Mr Collins is a start-up millionaire. Kitty and Lydia are obsessed with Cross Fit and Paleo diets. Mary is completing her third online masters degree and Mrs Bennet has a shopping addiction. Bingley and Darcy are, of course, both doctors.

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