posted at Monday, December 22nd, 2014 at 8:00 AM | Reviews, Young Adult
I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Love, Lucy by April Lindner
Published by Poppy on January 27, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Retelling, Romance
Amazon • The Book Depository
While backpacking through Florence, Italy, during the summer before she heads off to college, Lucy Sommersworth finds herself falling in love with the culture, the architecture, the food...and Jesse Palladino, a handsome street musician. After a whirlwind romance, Lucy returns home, determined to move on from her "vacation flirtation." But just because summer is over doesn't mean Lucy and Jesse are over, too.
In this coming-of-age romance, April Lindner perfectly captures the highs and lows of a summer love that might just be meant to last beyond the season.
Asking me to pick a top favorite book or movie will result in a face that looks either incredulous, offended, or that is laughing at the absurdness that is you thinking I can choose just one. However, I CAN pick a favorite movie. I mean, obviously there are bunches that are near and dear to me, but none do I love so much as A Room with a View. It is, to me, a completely perfect film, from the cast to the music to the plot to the KISSING. It won’t be perfect for everyone, though I do NOT want to hear about it if you hated it (sorry not sorry), but it assuredly is for me. I love the book too, for the record, but I think the film’s even better in this case. That said, I was equally over-the-moon about Love, Lucy and terrified that it would wreck my favorite thing. Happily, I announce that Love, Lucy, while not a perfect modernization, does not shame A Room with a View; it’s contemplative and modernizes certain aspects very well.
The names in Love, Lucy seem to indicate which roles adhere most closely to the counterparts of A Room with a View. Namely, the Bertolini is much the same and Lucy is herself, who even has the hair. Everyone else, however, is somewhere between altered and entirely gone. For example, darling Freddie doesn’t exist nor does Reverend Beebe, though I think that latter was probably a great choice. Some of the alterations are nice and make more sense in a modern context, where others admittedly confound me.
The best aspect I think, though quite a large change, is that the central conflict is no longer romantic. The romantic conflict of A Room with a View does still exist, but there’s another as well. In the original, I think Lucy is choosing between George and Cecil, but also what they represent: modernism and old-fashioned society. In Love, Lucy, the latter conflict is changed into the perennial classic of trying to decide whether to pursue her passion (acting) or her father’s (business). This works well, because, as LBD knew, the best modernization of marriage is actually business. The Lucy of A Room with a View loved playing the piano, so a tendency towards the arts is very accurate. Had she wanted to perform professionally, her family no doubt would not have approved, just as they didn’t love George’s social status.
For those who do not have the plot of A Room with a View memorized, know that it opens in sunny Florence. Lucy and Charlotte are traveling together around Italy, but the two get along imperfectly. Charlotte’s an older family member, firmly ensconced as a spinster and a very prim, proper, determined chaperone. In Love, Lucy, Charlotte becomes Charlene, a girl a couple years above her in Lucy’s prospective college and daughter of a woman her mother knows. The two are better matched than Lucy and Charlotte were, but still suffer from the most intrinsic dissonance: that Charlene feels she owes it to Lucy’s family to make sure certain standards are met and that Charlene becomes very mean when they’re not. Their dynamic conforms pretty well to the original and modernizes Charlene’s behavior convincingly.
Depending on how you like to label things, Love, Lucy is either YA or new adult. The book begins, as I said, in Florence, near the end of Lucy’s world tour, bought at the expense of her dreams. Basically, her dad offered her the trip to sweeten agreeing to be a business major, which she probably would have done anyway just to avoid the fight. The novel ends the summer after her first year of college. There is some sex (off screen) and also no time spent in classes, but it’s the sort of new adult read that new adult fans will not call new adult, so make of that what you will.
The aspect of the modernization that I struggle with most is Lucy’s family. In A Room with a View, the story is actually very female-driven. The only main male characters are George, who has no desire to boss Lucy around, Mr. Emerson, who’s just a jolly, socially-awkward chap, Cecil, who though a certain sort of bossy is not a powerful figure, Mr. Beebe, a reverend who mostly enjoys observing the drama, and Freddie, Lucy’s younger brother, who most definitely does not run the household. What the book does not mention, to my recollection, is a father; if he’s mentioned it’s in passing. He presumably died long ago, and it’s Lucy’s mother running the show. I don’t like the addition of a controlling father figure, because 1) it doesn’t fit and 2) I liked it matriarchal.
Ultimately, too, I feel like Lucy’s struggle to choose between a more modern life with George and a more high society life with Cecil is less about society’s opinions and more about Lucy’s. She doesn’t know what she wants and that’s the problem. The Lucy in Love, Lucy DOES know what she wants, but she’s afraid to act on it for fear of her father’s wrath. In A Room with a View, Lucy’s mother doesn’t approve of all of Lucy’s decisions and she will tell her daughter so, but she supports her in the end. The dad’s ultimatums don’t hit the right note, and I think that Lucy herself could be torn between a practical major and one she loves, with her parents perhaps rooting a bit for the practical.
Another aspect that doesn’t modernize quite so well is the romance. For one thing, it is, by its nature, pretty instalovey. I don’t mind that in historical fiction, because there generally weren’t other options available. In a modern novel, I struggle with it more. Lucy and Jesse (the George) do spend more time together than in the original, even going to Rome together after Florence, but it’s still pretty quick. Jesse, incidentally, is hardly like George, except that he advocates for doing what she wants; in personality, they’re quite distinct, since Jesse’s a musician, without close family ties, making his way around Europe without a plan.
Shane (the Cecil), in contrast, is, as one character in Wonderfalls put it “the man of [Lucy’s] list.” She doesn’t love him, but, if she were to make a list of the ideal qualities in a boyfriend, he would check all the boxes. He’s perfect on paper. Cecil was not quite that, but he would have checked many of them and he arrived at an emotional time. Shane does display telltale signs of many of Cecil’s flaws, like his lack of talent and desire to be a patron of sorts to the arts. He is not, however, quite as nice when things end, but that’s also because modernizing A Room with a View necessitates infidelity. There’s no way around it, because it IS in the original. The thing is that breaking an engagement back then was not quite the same level as cheating on someone that you’d chosen because you liked them. I do give this Lucy credit, though, for being honest with Shane about exactly what happened, which could be the reason why he doesn’t take it quite so well.
For those familiar with the film or book, Love, Lucy is an interesting adaptation and well worth checking out, if so inclined. If you’re not familiar with the story being retold, I think Love, Lucy might potentionally stand on its own even better, with the caveat that it may be not at all what you’ve been led to expect. Though what happens is very fluffy contemporary-ish, it doesn’t read that way. It’s not a bubbly, funny, feelsy book, particularly. Lucy spends much of the book making frustrating, albeit believable, decisions, not going on sexy Italian adventures.
I don’t have a specific quote, but the whole Coda was pretty much perfect.
Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy: