I’ve had this book sitting in my room for some time. I can’t even remember where it came from and how it got to be in my possession.I do remember picking it up one night, and getting a few chapters in before giving up, totally disterested and disengaged.
This week I cleaned out my pathetic book collection and put the book in the ‘sell/donate’ pile. (My book collection is rather eccentric and doesn’t really reflect my tastes. I read books from the library. When I have the time, I read voraciously. The only books I ever personally bought were at a garage sale for 50c – all my other books have been given to me, won in competitions or sent to me to review.) And then I thought, why not give it one more go? I’ve heard such good things about it. And god knows a couple of the other books in the ‘get rid of’ stack were insanely bad, and I even managed to finish reading those.
Second time around, I was pleasantly surprised. Like I tweeted the other day, I don’t know about the straight 5star Amazon rating, but it was certainly a great novel.
The characters are in denial. They are all so deeply flawed, and so human, it’s frustrating and almost hard to read on at times. The parts where Lily’s grandmother recalls her WW2 experiences are simply heartbreaking.
Surely everyone knows what it’s all about, but here’s a quick overview: Lily’s a young girl struggling by in NYC. Her roommate and best friend Amy goes missing while Lily is visiting her parents in Hawaii. Her big brother Andrew is implicated as a suspect in Amy’s disapperance, but Spencer, the detective on the case, grows close to Lily and they form a beautiful, awkward friendship. And in the midst of all this, Lily gets leukemia.
It’s such an intricate book; there’s so much going on, from Lily’s cancer and lottery win, to Amy’s disappearance and how it links to Lily’s brother, the blossoming bond between Spencer and Lily, and Lily’s alcoholic mother and enabling father, her stubborn, strong grandma, her moneygrubbing sister Anne and her selfish sister Amanda.
It’s funny though. People see The Girl in Times Square first and foremost as a love story. Which I suppose it is. But it wasn’t the love story that I kept reading for. I just really, really wanted to know what happened to Amy. Lily and Spencer’s relationship was secondary to that. Ultimately, it’s about love, loss, learning, family and betrayal, and in that vein, although we get a satisfactory ending in true romance style, there are no tidy loose ends.
At times, I found it a little too arty, a little too flowery and too…I don’t know, literary? I don’t appreciate techniques like suddenly launching into the present tense to emphasise the moment, for example. I like fairly straightforward clean writing. I enjoy a good creative passage, but when writers launch into lengthy descriptions, I just skim on ahead. Part of it is, I just cannot visualise images in my head. I find it exceedingly hard, and I don’t have the patience to try. I can accept the beauty in the way an author describes a landscape or a view, but rarely does it translate into a mental picture for me.
My only other gripe might be that the premise of Amy’s disappearance, and all the reasons behind it, were just a little too unbelievable. But aside from that, I really enjoyed it the second time around. I’ve been wanting to read The Bronze Horseman, and that is definitely next on my list!