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Crossed Wires Paperback – 2 Apr 2009
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MY FAIR LADY meets PRETTY WOMAN in his thoroughly modern romantic comedy. Rosy Thornton's most engaging novel to date is sure to delight her increasing number of fans.
This is the story of Mina, a girl at a Sheffield call centre whose next customer in the queue is Peter, a Cambridge geography don who has crashed his car into a tree stump when swerving to avoid a cat. Despite their obvious differences, they've got a lot in common -- both single, both parents, both looking for love. Could it be that they've just found it? CROSSED WIRES is an old-fashioned fairy tale. It is about the small joys and tribulations of parenthood; about one-ness and two-ness; about symmetry and coincidence; about the things that separate us and the things that bring us together.See all Product description
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This is a lovely but at the same time mildly frustrating read. The frustrating thing about this book is that Thornton sets up all sorts of interesting plot possibilities, but rarely follows them through. This means that various aspects of the book feel unresolved. For example, we learn very little about Mina's teen pregnancy and how it affected her ambitions, or about Peter's ex-wife Bev and his relationship with her. Sal's tendency to seek relief from the tedium of daily life in books was well captured, but Thornton never really explored whether this in fact was isolating her, and what the terrors were that led her to her mother's bed each night. We never find out who's sending anonymous notes to the Irish travellers, or how Kim feels about her sister Cassie neglecting her for said travellers' children and their adventures - or indeed what Trish really feels about her supervisor, and what her life's like outside of studies and babysitting. Nor do we find out why Jess has decided to run away from home to help a friend in need, or whether she really has been taking drugs. This can lead at times to a sense of incompleteness - the reader waits for a topic to be dealt with in depth, only to have Thornton 'glance off it' and move onto something else. And in place of real theme development there can at times be a bit too much padding: how many times do we need the exact details of post-school teatime, or to be told how scatty Trish is?
However, I have to say that none of this matters nearly as much as it might, both because Thornton's such a good writer, and because she's such a keen observer of human nature. I couldn't believe that this was the same woman who created the pallid characters in 'The Tapestry of Love' - nearly everyone in this book is very appealing and involving, and there's some brilliant observations of family life. I loved flamboyant book-illustrator Jeremy and his mildly uptight partner Martin, who try to help Peter with childcare; book-obsessed Sal is a wonderful creation (the parents' evening scene had me in stitches as my father had a very similar experience to Mina at one of my parents' evenings); the story of Kim and Cassie and the traveller children may not really go anywhere but contains some beautiful writing; and Mina, and her relationship to her gentle, shy stepfather Dave and her lively mother were beautifully captured. Thornton reminds us in many scenes (Sunday lunches, the 'Tiger Who Came To Tea' charade game, Sal's late-night reading next to her mother, Peter's walks with his children) how very special even the most mundane bits of family life can be, and Peter and Mina's gradual bonding, against the odds, was completely believable. For long stretches I have to say I was hooked. My one feeling was that a couple of dogs or cats would have been a welcome addition to the menage!
A gentle, warmhearted celebration of domestic life - perfect for long winter evenings (or warm summer afternoons).
This one is very different to the other two I have read so far and is more of your typical `chick lit' with a dash of real life thrown in for good measure. The book introduces us to Mina who is working at the call centre that she doesn't particularly like, but it pays the bills. Her next caller happens to be Peter who has had an accident in his car. For some reason the two of them click and they are eventually drawn into each others lives despite the geographical difference.
We get to see a bigger portion of Peter's life that we do Mina's but as the story progresses this makes sense. The two of them share common ground in that they are both single parents. The element of real life I mentioned in the story is that of the parent role of these two people. It is written really well and we get to see the trials and tribulations their kids put them through, which I am sure many parents could relate to.
Peter and Mina find themselves drawn over experience and as a reader we get to see how things pan out, and how mistakes can be made when you only have one version of events. The thing that really struck me is the fact that there is no real storyline that is the major thread of this book. I know that sounds strange, but that is what makes it so special. This is about two people facing every day things that many people will understand. We meet their children, friends and family who also made the book even better. Peter has twin girls and Mina has a daughter and they are very close in age making the subtle link and bond between Peter and Mina very real.
The children in this book, Cassie and Kim the twins and Sal, Mina's daughter, all played a part in the story in their own way. We get to see their lives and how things affect them and how this in turn affects their parents.
We also see Mina's mum and stepdad Dave as they tackle the issues surrounding Mina's younger sister Jess. On the other side of the fence we see Peter's friends and neighbours Jeremy and Martin (who I adored as characters) as well as Trish who occasionally babysits for him.
I can honestly say that I really, really enjoyed this. I was so shocked that such ordinary events could be structured into such a lovely book, as normally we have a main story to entertain us. In my opinion this just goes to show how good a writer Rosy Thornton is, a woman that can take every day, mundane stuff and turn it into a story. My only gripe was that I wanted it to last a little longer.
Don't be put off if you read the back and think it's a typical story revolving around a single parent woman who wants to be rescued. It's truly the opposite and was an absolute pleasure to read.
On the surface, the story is about the relationship between two people who have never met: a Cambridge don and a woman who works in a Sheffield call centre. Both are lone parents and bond, partly, through their shared concerns for their families. As ever, all the characters, major and minor, are minutely drawn and the quality of the writing is superb.
I don't think a book has to have a 'big' tub-thumping theme to make us think deeply about our lives. This exquisitely-drawn portrait of what matters to real people, has real heart, genuine warmth and great insight into human nature.
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