I’m such an ardent fan of April Lindner. I waited several years before reading Jane, resisting the idea of a revamped, contemporary Bronte retelling. When I acquired a copy of Catherine, Lindner’s retelling of Wuthering Heights, I finally read both and loved them utterly. Lindner’s skill with finding the important themes and crafting a modern narrative throughout is nothing short of brilliant. I love what she does with these books. When I heard that she was writing Love, Lucy, a current-day retelling of E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View I jumped up and down with glee. Literally. A Room with a View is one of my favourite classics and I knew that Lindner would do it justice.
Lucy Sommersworth is a young woman in between her senior year of high school and her first year of college. As part of a deal with her overbearing father Lucy is on a trip to Europe. The deal was that she would forgo her dream of studying drama in college in lieu of pursuing a business degree. Her Father agreed to fund the trip but sent along a companion, Charlene Barr, a level-headed peer, to keep Charlene safe. The two arrive in Florence, cranky and anxious for the last leg of their tour. Charlene is upset that the room given to them at the hostel is sub-par and complains enough to the management that two live-in tenants, Nello and Jesse, offer to swap with them during their stay. Lucy, embarrassed but wanting to avoid confrontation, accepts the better room before venturing out into Florence.
Lucy discovers a part of Italy that she falls in love with. She also begins a “vacation flirtation” with a young man from the hostel – Jesse, the gorgeous street musician with a penchant for roaming. Before she knows it she is swept up on a journey of self-discovery, of first love and first times… A journey that will, ultimately, have to end.
Now, in her first semester of college, Lucy is desperately trying to move on; to forget Jesse and Italy and the magical feeling of their street performances. College is her future and college affords many chances for reinvention, even if you found your true self on the cobbled streets of Europe.
There are so many things that are right about this book – the tone, the adventure, the build of the original story within these dynamics, the balance of romance with duty, the second romance… Everything rings true. The one thing I noticed about this book was that it lacked a little of the tension that I felt with the two Bronte retellings. But I owe that to the original source material more than Lindner. The Brontes both had the Gothic flavour to draw upon and, as such, there is a heightened degree of suspense. A Room with a View is a story about finding oneself and knowing what you want from life and going against convention. It’s about exploring one’s own heart. Lindner captures that essence perfectly, honoring Lucy’s indecision in the face of a domineering parent and a girl coming of age. It does translate well into a modern sense of unease and determination for resolution. It just did not have the immediate, urgent sense of gravitas of the previous two.
Is that a bad thing? By no means, no. It’s just a very different book. As it is, Love, Lucy tells a story that many modern young men and women will relate to – a story of a woman coming into her own. Lucy is bright with a quiet sense of adventurous spirit. She is like the proverbial flower blossoming throughout the book. In no way do we have a better sense of her character than when she becomes involved with her second boyfriend, Shane, another business major who appreciates art and artists in all of their beauty. Shane brings out the best (and the worst) in Lucy. He makes her realize what is worth fighting for, and what is worth pursuing… even if it is not necessarily what one would think is the best choice. Shane, as such, is a trifle flat from his original counterpart, Cecil, but in a way that makes sense. We don’t really want him to be “the right guy”. But he makes us want Lucy to realize what she wants with every fiber of our beings.
Love, surprises, adventure, and missed opportunities, Love, Lucy has it all. There’s a tricky dichotomy to crafting these retellings and Linder has it with finesse. Even with the quibbles and quirks she has nailed the heart of this story and that makes this fangirl very appreciative of her writing.
5 out of 5 stars.
*Love, Lucy releases January 27, 2015
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