‘Oh, So… Is That It?’ A Review of ‘Landline’ by Rainbow Rowell (Spoilers)

Rainbow Rowell has become one of my favourite writers. I’ve read every published story of hers except Carry On, which I plan to read soon. I love her writing style, and her funny yet realistic characters. She also has this ability to make descriptions so detailed you can easily picture every gesture, every facial feature, every movement she describes in your mind. Her books almost feel like films to me. Like quirky, romantic comedies.

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Brief Overview of Landline

Landline, is an adult contemporary/romance/magical realism(?) novel. It’s about Georgie McCool, a woman who works as a television show producer. She decides to stay home and work on a new show over the Christmas period, instead of going to stay with her mother-in-law in another state with her husband, Neal, and their two daughters.

Her marriage seems to be going through some tough times and Neal isn’t happy that she’s chosen work over spending Christmas with her family. There’s also Georgie’s best friend, Seth, who also works with her. Neal isn’t a fan of Seth because Georgie seems to spend more time with him than she does with her family.

Georgie stays at her mum’s home while Neal and the kids are away and she keeps trying to contact Neal but he doesn’t answer her calls or he’s not available when she speaks to one of the kids. However, she tries calling him on her rotary telephone she finds in her old bedroom at her mum’s house, and she gets through to him. But she soon discovers that it’s Neal from the past she’s speaking to, at a time when they were both in College. They’d split up for a bit and he’d gone to stay at his parents’ house over Christmas.

The book also has flashbacks to the past, showing us bits and pieces of Georgie and Neal’s relationship over the years. Georgie spends the week talking to ‘past Neal’ and trying to figure out what’s going on, and basically just evaluating her whole marriage. 

My Thoughts

I enjoyed this book. It took me a while to get into it at the beginning, but once I did I didn’t want to stop reading. To be honest, I don’t think I can dislike anything Rainbow Rowell writes so she has an unfair advantage.

However, there were some things I didn’t like or thought were problematic about the book.

1) The Phone. I still don’t understand how and why she was able to speak to ‘past Neal’. I’m left with more questions than answers. Who or what is responsible for the magic? Was the phone already magical or did it just decide to be magical for the week Neal is gone? Will it still be magical if she uses it again, or while Neal is in the same state? She could also speak to ‘past Neal’ on the phone in the kitchen. So are all the landline phones in her mum’s house magical?

And what was the point of her being able to talk to ‘past Neal’? Because it didn’t really seem to resolve anything, especially when we find out that Neal had already had these conversations with ‘future Georgie’ in the past and the conversations were what made him decide to propose to her. Her conversations with ‘past Neal’ weren’t going to make a difference to her present so, well, what was the point of them? They seemed to only make her realise that Neal had made a bad decision when he decided to marry her!

These questions were never really explored or explained in the book and I wish they had been.

2) Seth’s Declaration. She and Seth don’t have any romantic feelings for each other – except for when they first met and Georgie had a crush on him. She says that when she met Neal she no longer had those feelings for Seth. And Seth has been parading women around Georgie since the beginning of their friendship with no regard for whether she liked it or not.

So the fact that Seth confesses his love, sort of, to Georgie, seems like it comes out of nowhere. I feel like it’s done to create another obstacle for Georgie – except it isn’t really an obstacle because Seth isn’t really in love with her and she isn’t in love with him… So what was the point of his declaration again?

I also wonder what will happen between her and Seth afterwards, when Georgie comes back from Omaha. Will things be awkward between them or will they just go back to being the same as they were before? Will Georgie pull back from Seth a bit because she knows her closeness with him is affecting her marriage? 

3) The anticlimax. Georgie travels to Omaha on Christmas Eve to try to get to Neal and the kids by Christmas Day. She’s not dressed warm enough for the weather, her flights are delayed due to a blizzard, she sleeps in an airport, she has no way to get to Neal’s parents’ home when she eventually reaches Omaha, and has to rely on the kindness of strangers to give her a lift. The kind strangers also gave her some warmer clothes to wear. I loved all that. It was very Romantic Comedy-esque.  

However, what I didn’t like was that she gets to Neal’s parents’ home and then… nothing really happens. The kids are happy to see her, Neal is happy to see her (I think?) but not much gets discussed or resolved between them. Then the book ends. We don’t find out why Neal never answered her calls or why he was always conveniently busy or out when she called. It just feels anticlimactic.

Now, I kind of feel this way about all of Rainbow Rowell’s books. They’re like romantic comedies that produce all this build up and do the whole grand gesture at the end thing – except the grand gesture doesn’t lead to a happily ever after or a huge change between the characters or fix any of their problems. In Landline it even says: ‘And it didn’t fix anything. It didn’t change anything. She still had her job. And the meeting maybe. She still had Seth to sort out – or not. Georgie hadn’t made any real decisions…’

I’m torn because I like that it’s realistic. I mean, real life is never like a romantic comedy and grand gestures usually never resolve anything. But I just wish there was a little something more. A little more closure. A little more explanation. A little more discussion (between Neal and Georgie).

Thoughts on Characters

Georgie. I liked Georgie, but some of the things she did really annoyed me. I was like, girl, no wonder your marriage is in trouble! For example, the way she is with Seth. I know he’s her best friend, but as a married woman, she should take a step back from him – especially as her husband doesn’t like him, and he doesn’t like her husband. Instead, she seems to almost flaunt her relationship with Seth in Neal’s face. 

Neal. I’m not sure about Neal. I get why he feels the way he does about certain things, but I also feel like he is a bit of an a-hole. In fact, in the first few pages of the novel, I thought Neal was possibly abusive and that’s why Georgie was so afraid of telling him she had to work over Christmas. He’s not abusive though, just… I don’t know, unfriendly? Arrogant? Pretentious? He hardly laughs or smiles. He wanted Georgie to chase him in College rather than chasing her, even though he liked her too. He doesn’t answer her calls when he’s in a different state! I mean, c’mon, even if I was really pissed at my husband there’s no way I would ignore his calls for days when I’m miles away from him.

Heather. I really liked Heather. Great, funny character and I like the dynamic between her and Georgie. 

Georgie’s mum. Hilarious. I really enjoyed her character. She brought great comic relief. 

Seth. I don’t think I like Seth. To me, it seems like he’s using Georgie and stringing her along, making her think she has a chance with him, just to keep her around. That’s why when Georgie is about to go to Omaha to try and fix her marriage he decides to tell her he has feelings for her. He doesn’t mean it, he just wants her to stay and work on the show because he knows that it won’t be any good without her. He even admits during his declaration: ‘I can’t do this by myself. I’ve never even tried before, and now I know that I can’t’. He knew Georgie’s marriage was in trouble and that she was attempting to fix it but he didn’t care. A true friend wouldn’t have done that.

Those were my thoughts on Landline. If you’ve read this book and agree or disagree with some of my thoughts or even just want to share your own thoughts, please leave a comment! I’d love to discuss it with other people!

 

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