I wrote a paper for psychology class a few years ago about the influence books have on the reader. My argument, extremely simplified, was something to the effect of if you were to read a book where everyone jumped off a bridge and survived it was unlikely that the reader would try it themselves. I believe that it is Murphy’s Law that when I want to quote the paper itself I cannot find it anywhere. Upon reflection I have since revised my thoughts on the matter somewhat.
Indirectly a woman, who I have never met and likely will never meet, is partially responsible for one of the most important decisions I will have ever made. All because Diana Gabaldon conceived the character of Jamie Fraser, I found Outlander in the romance section attracted by its artistic cover and substantial size, serendipitously because according to the author it was not in fact intended for this genre. The significance of this purchase would not become apparent for another three years, a friend wanted to arrange an introduction and when I was asked what I liked my response was immediate “smart and red haired”. My husband is the 6’4 red head I was introduced to after that faithful conversation beyond the superficial he does not have much in common with this iconic character but it was enough to drastically alter the future I envisioned for myself. Considering my own experience it lead me to wonder how something so outwardly innocuous could have such a powerful effect on us and in how many other ways have the written word dramatically altered the course that we have set for ourselves even unknowingly.
The first night after Caroline moves into her fantastic new San Francisco apartment, she realizes she’s gaining an intimate knowledge of her new neighbor’s nocturnal adventures. Thanks to paper-thin walls and the guy’s athletic prowess, she can hear not just his bed banging against the wall but the ecstatic response of what seems (as loud night after loud night goes by) like an endless parade of women. And since Caroline is currently on a self-imposed dating hiatus, and her neighbor is clearly lethally attractive to women, she finds her fantasies keep her awake even longer than the noise. So when the wallbanging threatens to literally bounce her out of bed, Caroline, clad in sexual frustration and a pink baby-doll nightie, confronts Simon Parker, her heard-but-never-seen neighbor. The tension between them is as thick as the walls are thin, and the results just as mixed. Suddenly, Caroline is finding she may have discovered a whole new definition of neighborly…
Wallbanger by Alice Clayton is in a word FUN. I hadn’t even finished it before starting this review. When we meet Caroline she has just moved into a lovely sublet in San Francisco and everything seems perfect until the first night. The title really says it all, poor Caroline, who has misplaced her “o”, the “O” for those of us who require further elaboration, is an involuntary auditory spectator to her neighbours sexual antics adding insult to injury considering her “o-less” state.
When she does finally meet “Wallbanger” it is not love at first sight which is a refreshing change from many of the novels I have read in recent years. Too often the hero and heroine meet and before a full day has passed they are irrevocably in love. Clayton has masterfully created likeable, funny characters, Caroline has a healthy self image there are no painful mental soliloquies bemoaning why Wallbanger could never love her.
Her relationships with her girlfriends are refreshingly irreverent and free of female rivalry even in some situations where a little cattiness wouldn’t be unexpected. She takes the time to build a relationship between the protagonist and the love interest, at no time is the reader wondering what the characters see in one another. After this enjoyable read I will definitely read more by this author.
If I were to try and describe the novel On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves in terms of popular television and movies within the last few decades it would be as the bastard child of Lost and The Blue Lagoon but that description may not do justice to the simple elegance that is this novel. Garvis Graves has managed to deftly depict a story-line which on the surface is somewhat off-putting to the vast majority of the population portraying the inevitable romance between a teenage boy and his much older tutor after they are marooned on an uninhabited island in the Indian Ocean. Visions of Mary Kay Laterno aside, On the Island is a thrilling story of survival that I finished in a single evening.
When the story opens Anna is in a relationship that is going nowhere and has taken a tutoring position in Maldives for the summer. Her prospective student T.J. is to spend the summer catching up on all the school work he missed while in cancer treatment. They miraculously survive the crash of their private plane into the ocean and are washed ashore on one of the many uninhabited islands of the Maldives.
I devoured this book, reading it at every opportunity that being said On the Island isn’t for everyone. The relationship that develops between Anna and T.J. is contentious both within and without the book. The question is what would make a romantic relationship between a woman in her third decade and a much younger man okay? Is the vaguely discomfited feeling that one has following the conclusion of the story simply hypocrisy? Would the reader be more comfortable with a male protagonist and a female fourteen years his junior? Regardless of the questions of morality On the Island is unexpectedly intriguing the reader is compelled to follow the story to its conclusion routing for not only this unlikely couples survival but their happiness together.