I chose Landline by Rainbow Rowell as an easy summer read: something different than our book club’s usual fare and yet concerning a comparable and relatable married with children theme.
As usual, our members did not disappoint! Overall, the book was not liked, but we had one of the best discussions ever. Several members had not finished the book. One member had looked ahead and discovered the “magic” phone line and completely lost interest. One threw the book across the room at home. Another member concluded that the book was “much ado about nothing”!
I asked if anyone had liked the book and a few people nodded and one woman acknowledged it wasn’t deep but had been enjoyable to read. One member had been interested to know what would happen, even as another said – nothing happened, that’s the problem. I asked for us all to consider why we needed something serious, such as the forced sterilization issue in Necessary Lies? One member concluded that Landline needed more of a plot and maybe even a dead body! Did we feel sorry for Georgie? Maybe, but did we like her? Several of us forgave Neil as an introvert while others found him too grumpy and uncommunicative. Was he even really unhappy or was that all Georgie’s construct? Was the landline magic or was it all Georgie’s imagination? We discussed Georgie’s personal hygiene. Why did she buy only one bra and no underwear? Why didn’t she just go home to get a bag of clothes? Georgie was used to being in control and when Neal left, she was thrown into a tailspin. And what about those pugs in the dryer?! I heard more comments from my end of the table while animated debates were happening all at once and all around. It was pleasant to experience but difficult to record!
We discussed gender roles and we shared some stories from our own experiences. After the meeting, one member said what a great group of people we all were. Another agreed. And so do I. Thank you all for joining us!
- Other works discussed:
- Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
- The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
- Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain
- Faulkner and Twain (authors: mundane topics well written)
I want to share this review from member MM who couldn’t attend but adds to the discussion. I heard a lot of these same sentiments at our meeting:
“You asked me to send my thoughts on this month’s selection after I finished reading it, so here goes! I did not like this book. Halfway through it I was wishing it was shorter. In some ways it reminded me of a “Meet the Fockers” movie, which to me are unrealistic and pretty moronic. I did not like Georgie. I thought she was selfish. I thought Neal was a wimp. LOL I didn’t think Georgie should have to quit her job, but she was very inconsiderate to Neal by working such long hours and was a lousy mother. Why did Neal have to look for a job in Omaha? Did he even try looking for work in CA? Wouldn’t that have made more sense? It was almost as if he was adding another reason for “breaking up” with Georgie. And what’s with breaking up? Isn’t that what high school kids do? I thought the magic phone was weird, too. I think this book is better geared for young teenagers. Whew! As you can see, I did not enjoy Landline.”
The immediacy of this book hooked me. It’s third person limited to Georgie, but her perception is so personal and strong that I was with her. Overall, I liked her. She doesn’t have the traits we usually admire in a mother and wife, but she’s a woman, passionate about her work (actually an art—comedy), and honest about herself. She’s introspective, scathingly so. She tells us ugly details. But what is most winning about her and about the book is her perception of her husband from the first time she sees him. It doesn’t change; it’s inexplicable, constant, and intense. Her love of Neal makes him a winning character—though analysis may raise doubts. The reversal of gender roles is certainly a theme, and one message there is strong even if it’s not new: whether the man or woman is the devoted artist, love for the spouse can be real, encompassing, and still be relinquished for love of work.
I was also hooked and engaged in reading, although in retrospect I kept having problems with it. I like your analysis. The book is certainly in today’s world, even as it uses the time twist to help Georgie see more clearly.