Book Lovers by Emily Henry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Some books are confusing and “Book Lovers” by Emily Henry is definitely one of those: Literary agent Nora, a big city shark, meets big city editor Charlie and inevitably falls in love with him. In a rural small town of all places to which she retreated with her sister Libby to try and fix their strained relationship. For a romance, a rom-com, this is a good premise.
Sadly, the execution was of varying quality: First of all, the characters are so-so at best.
Nora, characterised as a workaholic and a “shark” dominated by bloodlust in favour of her authors, doesn’t ever feel like a shark. From very early on we get to know that she’s always trying to “fix” things around Libby. Everything Nora does is dominated by her almost obsessive and possessive behaviour towards Libby: Nora didn’t pursue her dream career to make more money for Libby (and herself). Nora never goes beyond the first date because she’s only interested in acquiring food for herself and Libby.
So, while I did like Nora, this compulsive obsessive behaviour was way too much.
»“My sister’s the sweet one. If she pees outside, flower gardens burst up from it.”«
Libby in turn feels like an “extra” (if this was a film): She married very young, has two children with a third on the way. She lets herself be “mom”-ed up by her domineering sister and quite likely fled into marriage just to get away from the overpowering influence Nora exerts over her.
Libby is also entirely forgettable – if it wasn’t for a late “twist” in the book, she would have been completely superfluous.
Then there’s Charlie. He seems like a good enough guy but his character mostly remains in the dark. He simply doesn’t make enough of an impression to really get who he is.
The story itself is also a mixed bag: Much drama in the past, some more in the present, a failing bookstore in a quaint little town, very few truly interesting characters and the overall “literary world” setting is hardly used at all: Nora and Charlie cooperatively edit the book of Nora’s favourite client – why don’t we get to know and read more about that book which actually has an impact on Nora’s and Charlie’s relationship?
There’s not much in terms of “book lovers” in there either: Yes, Nora and Charlie use the “same subtle gender-neutral cologne” very unsubtly called “BOOK” (yes, spelled in caps).
Yes, they both enjoy the old-fashioned book store but their “love” for anything (but each other, thankfully) seems rather generic and superficial.
This book works (or fails) regardless of either the protagonist’s professions or their passions.
All of this doesn’t mean this is a bad book; it isn’t. The writing is fine, there’s humour and the way Nora’s and Charlie’s journey to each other begins did amuse me a lot…
»Another message comes in. A page from the Bigfoot Christmas book, featuring a particularly egregious use of decking the halls, as well as a reference to a sex move called the Voracious Yeti, which doesn’t sound remotely anatomically possible.«
… especially since a Goodreads friend recently read and hilariously reviewed something like that!
Also on the plus side: Nora and (albeit to a lesser degree) Charlie actually communicate and talk about the challenges for their relationship which is all too rare in romance:
»“Maybe, for whatever reason, you just don’t want to date right now,” I say, “and that’s fine. People feel that way all the time. But if it’s something else—if you’re afraid you’re too rigid, or whatever your exes might’ve thought about you—none of that’s true. Maybe every day with you would be more or less the same, but so what? That actually sounds kind of great. “And maybe I’m misreading all of this, but I don’t think I am, because I’ve never met anyone so much like me. And—if any part of all this is that you think, in the end, I’ll want a golden retriever instead of a mean little cat, you’re wrong.” “Everyone wants a golden retriever,” he says in a low voice. As ridiculous a statement as it is, he looks serious, concerned. I shake my head. “I don’t.” Charlie’s hands settle on the edge of the desk on either side of me, his gaze melting back into honey, caramel, maple. “Nora.” My heart trips at his rough, halting tone: the voice of a man letting someone down easy.«
And, last but not least, there are some truths hidden in this book, the most important of which is put into a toddler’s mouth:
»Tala regales us with a tale that is either the nonsense ramblings of a toddler or a faithful retelling of a Kafka novel.«
All in all, this garners three out of five stars from me.
Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam
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Book Lovers by Emily Henry