Book Review: Love Walked In

What's a book review doing on a movie blog? Well, while it's not a movie yet, Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos has been optioned by Paramount, with Sarah Jessica Parker apparently interested in starring. Also, there are a lot of classic movie references in this book, which is the reason I picked it up in the first place.

Love Walked In tells the interwoven stories of Cornelia, a diminutive 31-year-old coffee shop manager obsessed with old movies, and Clare, an 11-year old girl dealing with her mother's mental breakdown. The book is written in alternating chapters that switch between first and third person perspectives. While this does work for making the two characters distinct, it is also occasionally jarring going back and forth.

The good:
  • The writing is intelligent and interesting and occasionally insightful.
  • I personally enjoyed the nod to old movies, but then, I do tend to think in movie moments myself. Someone who doesn't like or know many classic movies might get tired of this after a while. Also referred to: various books, fictional characters, and poetry. In general these references were explained enough to make the point or left light enough so that it wouldn't matter if you didn't know what the author was talking about. I didn't get every one, but when I did know the source I thought it illuminated and enhanced the story.
The nit-picks:
  • Whatever happened to the "i" in Claire? I blame The Time Traveler's Wife for this Clare business. (And while we're at it, the covers of these two books are very similar. Hmm.)
  • The quirky best friend thing. So many modern heroines (in books and movies) have a quirky best friend who dresses strangely, speaks outspokenly, is always there when needed and easily picks up on her friend's every mood and thought. (Maybe I'm just jealous because I want a quirky best friend.)
The unbelievable:
  • No 11-year-old I know is as wise as Clare. While I feel for this character's plight, she is way too precocious to be believed.
  • Practically everyone in the book is gorgeous and/or resembles a movie star. Characters are described as looking like Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Myrna Loy... One character is so beautiful that he makes people stupid at the sight of him. I accept unusual beauty in the movies, but life is not a casting call and most people are pretty ordinary-looking.
  • When Clare's mother disappears, no one wants to make an issue of it. I can understand Clare wanting to keep her mother's problems a secret, but all the other adults seem to want to keep things under wraps. Why is this a good idea?
  • The last third of the book is really contrived. Everything is wrapped up tidily thanks to two convenient deaths (if death can be called convenient), an unexpected inheritance, some well timed departures and arrivals and people being way too willing to turn their whole lives upside down.
The book is occasionally touching and does have some nice ideas about finding love in unexpected places, but overall the unrealistic twists kept me from really loving it.

One thing the book and I agree on: The Philadelphia Story is a great movie and you should see it. The book holds as a universal truth that "Jimmy Stewart is always and indisputably the best man in the world, unless Cary Grant should happen to show up." This may be true, although the idea is not really followed through in the book, and it is not really the point of the movie. While the book hits on the fabulousness of Katharine Hepburn and the rightness of a satisfying love story, there is so much more to The Philadelphia Story. The main theme of the movie could be better summed up in this quote from it: "The time to make up your mind about people is never." The ideas about human frailty and class prejudices and privacy and people being able to change are much richer than the themes of Love Walked In, and the characters have more depth and appeal, too. Also, the dialogue is light-years better. So when and if the movie adaptation of this book does come out, I am much more likely to just re-watch The Philadelphia Story instead.


Cesia said...

Some people think that I dress weird (if you call hating stupid trendy garbage weird), I have a charming lack of tact, and I am always here to quote North by Northwest for you.

- Cesia.

Wendymoon said...

OK, you sold me, you can be my quirky best friend! :-) (My only complaint is that you live in another state.)

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