I had no intentions on reading and writing a review on a Chick Lit novel. This is not necessarily because I dislike the genre in particular, but because most of them tend to be too predictable, stereotypical, idealistic, unrealistically perfect etc so I tend to avoid them – yes, I’m one of those annoyingly fastidious people who demands that a film or novel be realistic to some degree (depending on the genre, of course). What Nora Knew by Linda Yellin was an exception. I tend to skim over the blurb and take a quick peek at the first page or so of any novel in order to decide whether it’s worth continuing with, and on doing so for this novel, I was immediately and mercilessly hooked.
What Nora Knew is about Molly Hallberg (a writer for an online newsmagazine) who, having been through a (long) string of unsuccessful relationships – one marriage included – has a somewhat jaded view on love. Although she is in a steady relationship with her current boyfriend, Russell Edley, she is not a believer in the sort of flowery love that is generally characterized by plenty of passion, elaborate and romantic gestures, and excitement etc – the sort of love that many of the characters in the novel coincidentally have. Instead, she settles for a “comfortable” relationship with him, mainly due to the limiting factor of her age (late thirties), or so she feels. Somewhere along the way, she meets a certain Cameron Duncan (a famous author) who she progressively, unwillingly and inevitably falls for. From this, I’m sure even those of you who are not familiar with/not fans of Chick Lit novels can guess the ending without too much difficulty.
Despite the stereotypical plot, I was quite fond of this novel. For, Yellin’s abilities as an author are more than admirable; the voice of Molly is so internal, witty, sarcastic, sharp, funny, entertaining and likeable. I was constantly chuckling and more than that, she seems very real – indeed it is like she is a real person talking to you instead of for you and that, to me, is one of the marks of a great author. However, that was the best part of this novel. The drama, events and dialogue – albeit quite entertaining in some parts – was mostly just a little bit above average. At certain times, I actually got a little bored because there wasn’t anything particularly enthralling and some parts were not very believable. But, it was Molly’s amusing and engaging voice that kept me reading right to the end.
One other redeeming factor of the novel that I have to mention is that Yellin readily highlights the fact that most love stories in Chick Lit novels and Rom-Coms are stereotypical and/or predictable, but that people still want to read on or keep watching anyway because they are “mesmerized by the journey”. She does this through the guise of certain characters and with references to some Rom-Coms (the title itself is in reference to Nora Ephron who is most notable for certain films such as When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, for those of you who don’t know). It could just be me, but there is something rather comforting about the author acknowledging that what they’re writing about is stereotypical or clichéd and that they know that people still like to read it anyway to experience the “journey” – it makes them (or their writing, at least) seem more genuine.
Anyway, in short, this book was quite enjoyable but nothing to make you truly go WOW! The ending is very obvious (but then again, it was what Yellin intended), so I suppose some or most will do what she anticipates (as I did) – keep reading until the very end, not because they want to know who Molly ends up with etc, but because they want to experience the journey with her. This is most likely one of those books you might want to take along with you on a holiday (that is, if you like reading Chick Lit novels in the first place and/or if you like reading them when you’re away on holiday). Even if there wasn’t anything especially riveting, the engaging and laughter-inducing voice of Molly herself would be enough to make most want to read this novel.
Style of writing: 9/10
– by Rosemary Nguyen
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