Reading Landline by Rainbow Rowell is like falling in love. Or rather, falling with love with two characters who are in love…it’s complicated. Like a new relationship, I went through all the stages with Landline. We met but I wasn’t that bothered, we met again and I was intrigued, we agreed to spend more time with each other… then suddenly it was 1am on a Wednesday and I realised I possibly needed an intervention, because I was obsessed. Yeah, I know. It’s that kind of book.
You see, I didn’t expect to love Landline. But like real life, things always happen when you’re least expecting them to. For me it was standing in the Library without a plan. Usually when I go to the library I at least have a vague idea of what I’m looking for.
But on this occasion I was waiting to meet someone and so I was aimlessly browsing. I’d heard of Rainbow Rowell, but thought she mainly wrote YA fiction which isn’t something I really gravitate towards for one reason or another. At a loss, and running out of time, I decided to grab Landline just in case. It would be a waste of a library trip to leave without a book wouldn’t it?
Little did I know!
Flash forward to Wednesday at 1 am. I emerged from between the pages of Landline thinking, ‘Where have you been all my life?!’ I can’t really describe it better than that. It really was a sudden flash of inspiration, or maybe it was late night delirium…who can tell.
What’s It Even About?
“Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble; it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.
Maybe that was always beside the point. When her husband and the kids leave for the airport without her, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything. That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past.
It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts… Is that what she’s supposed to do? Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?”
One thing I loved from the start was how genuine Georgie’s love for husband of 14 years felt. It wasn’t like the usual depiction of a long-term relationship which is comfy but a bit faded at the seams. That was still there, but I loved that even when Neal was annoyed with Georgie we got to see her inner monologue describing how she loved how he acted when he was annoyed. I found it really refreshing to have this sneak peek into a relationship that isn’t perfect, but is one the characters want to continue with anyway.
Too often, the criticism levelled at romance fiction is that it is unrealistic. It doesn’t reflect the guts and all reality of life. Rainbow Rowell doesn’t shy away from guts, or warts, or simply stating that good relationships take work. But what makes it different is that for Georgie the memories of the first, heady stages of falling in love with Neal are compacted and transformed into her love for what they have now.
Why Should I Read It?
The genius of Landline by Rainbow Rowell (pictured) is that when Georgie realises she has a magic connection to the Neal she fell in love with in 1998 it’s the Neal in the present day she finds herself missing. By exploring her past, and those first heady and dramatic months of dating, she realises that she wants what she has now. Whilst she loves the memories it is what those months have transformed into that really matter.
I remember my friend once saying that although she was happy in her relationship, she missed that flutter of excitement that accompanies the first couple of months of dating someone. It was nice to be established and sure of each other. But sometimes she was sad that she wouldn’t have those intoxicating moments back again.
I think we all go through this to a certain extent. Humans are notorious for wanting what they don’t have. And this is what Rainbow Rowell explores in landline. When Georgie is talking on the phone to the old Neal she gets to relive all the uncertainty of that time in her life, along with the excitement and anticipation too. It rejuvenates her but it also exhausts her.
She moves back into her mother’s house, she starts slacking at work. Because new relationships are just as hard as long term ones. Will it work? Have I gone too far? Is it worth it? These are all questions that Georgie must explore. As she battles with whether saving her present day relationship is worth it, she finds herself convincing the old Neal to give their old relationship a chance.
“You don’t know when you’re twenty-three. You don’t know what it really means to crawl into someone else’s life and stay there. You can’t see all the ways you’re going to get tangled, how you’re going to bond skin to skin. How the idea of separating will feel in five years, in ten – in fifteen. When Georgie thought about divorce now, she imagined lying side by side with Neal on two operating tables while a team of doctors tried to unthread their vascular systems. She didn’t know at twenty-three.”
“It’s more like you meet someone, and you fall in love, and you hope that that person is the one—and then at some point, you have to put down your chips. You just have to make a commitment and hope that you’re right.”
“Someone had given Georgie a magic phone and all she’d wanted to do with it is stay up late talking to her old boyfriend. If they’d given her a proper time machine, she probably would have used it to cuddle with him. Let someone else kill Hitler.”
“How could people live someplace that so obviously didn’t want them? All that romance about snow and seasons… You shouldn’t have to make a special effort not to die every time you left your house.”
Read Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Read it in one sitting, or across a couple of weeks, it doesn’t matter. Just read it! It’s worth the book hangover I promise!
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