Book Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Posted October 22, 2014 by Stormy in Books / 7 Comments

Landline

by Rainbow Rowell

Landline

Original Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Length:310  pages
Obtained Via: Library
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

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Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

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It pains me to say it, but I have found a Rainbow Rowell book that I am sadly not head-over-heels in love with. Landline is a fine book, but when compared to Rowell’s previous work, it just doesn’t match up, from the characters to the prose. To be fair, I would never normally pick up a book with a synopsis like Landline, since books about people struggling with their marriage don’t really interest me, especially when there are kids involved. However, Rowell has managed to make me fall in love with premises I’ve side-eyed before(namely, Attachments), so I gave it a shot.

I don’t really read Rainbow Rowell’s books for plot–I read them for the writing and the characters. However, Landline completely subverted that. I found myself more interested in the plot and the idea of the magical phone than the characters and their problems. Unfortunately, Landline suffered from the fact that I found all the secondary characters infinitely more interesting than Georgie and Neal, especially Neal. I’m not sure if that was because of the narrative distance on Neal(after all, for most of the story Georgie is talking to a Neal in the past, not a Neal in the future).

In fact, I found the past much more interesting in the future, since in the flashbacks to college Georgie seemed dynamic and interesting and Neal seemed sweet, though still rather flat. Rowell is normally so good about writing chemistry between her romantic leads, and Georgie and Neal’s relationship wasn’t exactly flat but it didn’t sizzle or spark either. I’ve always appreciated the realness of Rowell’s romance so I wasn’t expecting flashy or perfect, but everything just seemed so mundane. I didn’t even know if I wanted to root for Georgie and Neal.

I did appreciate the work the characters had to put into their relationship, something that isn’t always portrayed realistically in fiction. I wanted to want them to work out, but there was never that pull while I was reading. Partially I think this was due to the nature of the story–so much of it takes place with Georgie and Neal talking over the phone, and that can only be so compelling, which might also be a reason I thought the college flashbacks were just more interesting and better written.

The one aspect I really enjoyed of Landline was the magic phone. I was skeptical of this not-quite-time-travel device until about halfway through, but I *did* like the situations present-Georgie and past-Neal found themselves in. I thought it would be waved away in the end, and while there’s no in-depth details of how the phone works, I found myself not being bothered by it because of the role it played in the story.

Unfortunately, Landline didn’t really do it for me, mostly because the characters seemed to really lack any spark. The relationship dynamic explored was interesting, but while reading I felt like I was observing it in a very detached, clinical way, like the way I might feel if I was examining some scientific specimen under a microscope in my 10th grade biology class.

 

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A least favorite Rainbow Rowell book is still a good book, but Landline just lacked the spark of life her previous works had. While I understood the motivations behind the story, I never got swept up in the characters and their lives. 3/5 cupcakes.

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3 Stars

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7 responses to “Book Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

    • Stormy

      The liking flashbacks the most seems to be a common theme! It’s by no means a bad book(I’m not sure I could ever think a Rainbow Rowell book is *bad*), but much less endearing than her other works.

      • Maraia

        It seems as though we all might have liked Landline a lot more if someone besides Rainbow Rowell (whose books we obviously expect to be great) had written it. Part of the problem was the comparison to her other AMAZING books. But then again, maybe we wouldn’t have picked it up in the first place.

  1. Maraia

    Agreed – the past was definitely more interesting. If that had been the whole story, I think it would have been a more typical (and enjoyable) Rainbow Rowell novel.

  2. Ah boo. I’m a little iffy on this one too. Think I’ll have to library it. I’m less concerned about the age and circumstance of the characters than I am about the magical phone in what seems like an otherwise unmagical novel. Maybe I just need to tell myself this book is magical realism and read it anyway. Definitely one to get from the library though.

    • Stormy

      I’d definitely library it. Yeah, I think unless you think of this one as magical realism, you’ll be disappointed. It threw me a little at first, because the rest of the book doesn’t really read the way magical realism books normally do, but I got on board with that in the end. It’s still GOOD because it’s a Rainbow Rowell novel but it’s definitely my least favorite.

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