by Jennifer E. Smith (Headline, 2012)
The concept behind this sweet little novel was pretty irresistable. It is about one American girl, one English boy, and the coincidences that throw them together at a New York airport, changing both their lives. Hadley is four minutes late for the plane that was due to take her to London to watch her father marry a woman she has never met. But when she meets Oliver - who is waiting for the next plane to London for a family gathering of his own - she realises that this day might not be so awful after all.
This is a really lovely little debut - the kind of concentrated whirlwind of activity that would make a great movie, in fact. Neither Oliver nor Hadley have a massive amount of depth - as you might expect from a novel with a 24-hour time frame, I suppose - but they are both witty and sparky characters and the the culture clash and gentle teasing between them is quite amusing. Their romance is the stuff daydreams are made of, but happily it never veers into cliche and Smith keeps her plot firmly on the right side of plausible.
One of the most interesting and surprising aspects of the novel, for me at least, is how much it focusses on Hadley's family issues. This isn't just a whimsical story about finding your soulmate in an unlikely place; it is also a very insightful look at what happens to a child when a family breaks down. How does it feel when that child finds out that their parents are splitting up? How does it feel the day one parent moves out of the home, taking their familiar belongings and their physical presence away? How does it feel as those parents move on with their lives? And what happens when issues of any kind go unresolved between a parent and child for too long? It was surprisingly moving to read, and emotionally spot-on.
All in all, I really liked this book. It is a quick and easy read, but one that delves quite firmly into the mechanics of family life and relationships, as well as a supplying a screen-worthy romance that made me sigh happily as I finished the last page. I'll be keeping an eye out for Smith's next novel, out next year!
- "The truth was, even if they were still dating, her father's wedding was pretty much the last place she'd ever be inclined to take somebody. Having to endure the night in a disaster of a bridesmaid dress while watching a bunch of adults do the 'YMCA' would be hard enough to bear on her own; having company would only make it worse."
- "Hadley understood. It wasn't that she was meant to read them all. Maybe some day she would, but for now, it was more the gesture itself. He was giving her the most important thing he could, the only way he knew how. He was a professor, a lover of stories, and he was building her a library in the same way other men might build their daughters houses."
Note: Many thanks to Headline, who sent me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.