Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Love Walked In

Emily, Laura, and I all just finished this novel. I finished it for the third time, and I finally convinced them to read it for the first. I may have to convince you as well, because, I know, it looks like something that only a certain middle aged desperate female set would appreciate. The cover is of a young girl with knee socks and the title has the word 'love' in it. Its chick-lit, FINE.

But I am of the twenty-something New York professional gal crowd, and before I lose my credibility as someone with impeccable taste (don't deny it)... hear me out. I love this book.

Marisa de los Santos writes the story of a young woman finding unexpected love. A simple concept, but its gorgeous. Heart-stopping. Its me on the subway hoping that my stop will never approach because I hate leaving the world within these pages. Feel-good at its most brilliant.

A friend of mine once said that she liked people more if they liked Harry Potter. Harry Potter was her barometer for friendship. Harry had little to do with it, it was the reader that she liked. She found that she and those who liked Harry Potter shared an understanding. She liked people who could become invested in something as obscure as the lives of wizards. She felt a kinship with those who could be caught reading tween literature and who would appreciate imaginations of a certain British intelligence.

Well, I like Harry Potter well enough, but Love Walked In just might be my barometer. If you like this novel, we probably understand each other. And if you are still concerned, know that my favorite novels are Dickens and Fitzgerald, Collins and Homer. I like Smith and Cather and Coetzee. Its just that this novel links reader and idea in a way that I have yet to come across.

The writing style is uniquely forward, and reads as something incredibly familiar. The author writes to us, as if we share a common prior knowledge. de los Santos, as Cornelia in the first person, talks her way around situations by anticipating judgment and confusion. She is quick to back herself up and quick to explain action and reason. The story is laced with references and idioms that come from Cornelia's world, a world that we feel we are part of and not just watching from above. Its deeply intimate and reads a bit like Austin's Mansfield Park-- Fanny Price invites us in by talking to us.

de los Santos also writes with the depth of someone who grew up on old movies. She is of course somewhat nostalgic in this, but makes up for it with sarcasm and sass. The old movies and classic novels come up throughout the story as a point of understanding between reader and character (remember, this is what will also link you and I as sharing a great understanding) and they serve as a catalyst for idea and comprehension. The Philadelphia Story plays a lead role, as do Hitchcock and Montgomery. You can see why I was struck.

The novel follows the tale of Cornelia Brown, a thirty-something cafe manager. Cornelia is a character to whom I often return for strength and for wit. Cornelia gets it in a way that so few do. She is uprightly moral yet an utter realist. She's feisty and questioning and content. Cornelia built a world for herself out of material and goodness and moved to Philadelphia because of Tracy Lord. She loves Cary Grant, real pajamas, and making lists. And her imagination is as thick as my own. I like Cornelia for the same reason that I like my coffee mugs... because she innately feels like home.

Cornelia meets Clare, the second leading lady, mid-plot, and there creates the most beautiful of all love stories. In this story exists philia... friend-love. Clare is an eleven year old girl who just lost her mother in every way that a mother can be lost-- amidst a mental breakdown. She found Cornelia and Cornelia found Clare, and philia enters the tale with generosity and compassion.

The story whips and wraps and encloses on reader much like old movies do. Its complicated and sad and comforting. Its the 1940's silver screen shining into the Starbucks generation. And speaking of the silver-screen, my girl S-J is said to have picked up this script and will play her in the film version. My thoughts on New York's Victorian starlet as Philadelphia's Cornelia Brown? I'll embrace it faster than you can say cosmopolitan.

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