10 January 2008

Book Review: Rescuing Rose by Isabel Wolff

Rescuing Rose Agony aunt Rose Costelloe’s life has taken a nosedive. Her husband of seven months has run off with their marriage counsellor - ironically, on the day her book on marriage success was released. She’s moved out of their house into a place of her own, whose mortgage she can barely afford, and her job could be in jeopardy unless she fulfills her new editor’s demands for more sex-related questions in her Ask Rose column. Luckily her two best friends - co-dependent twins Bella and Bea - come up with a sensible idea: take in a lodger. So Rose ends up sharing house space with Theo, a bespectacled accountant with a passion for astronomy. When not worrying about whether she’s given a home to an axe murderer, Rose is trying to salvage her career and get over Ed, as well as coping with the twins’ dating disasters, a cross-dressing ex, a two-timing assistant and a pet mynah that has suddenly decided to start talking. Her life is in chaos, but who’s going to offer advice to an agony aunt?

I know I pretty much swore off chick lit a few months ago, but I always intended to make Isabel Wolff the exception, as I loved Behaving Badly. Seems like either that or this was an aberration; Rescuing Rose was nowhere near as good. Or, in fact, good at all. First-person narration by a hard-to-like character is bound to be tricky, and here fails dismally. Rose is much more than that old cliché, someone who can give advice but can’t take it. She is self-delusional and painfully transparent; it’s so obvious that she’s lying to herself as well as everyone else. She doe things like drive past her ex’s house while vigorously agreeing with another agony aunt on the radio, who is at that moment advising a caller against doing the same thing. She’s prone to jumping to conclusions about people, and if others don’t agree, well, that’s because they lack an agony aunt’s ability to read between the lines. And at 39, she’s definitely old enough to know better. I don’t know what Theo saw in her - or what she saw in Ed, who must surely be one of the biggest jerks in the genre.

About all I can say for it is that the plot was okay and the hero was a total science geek.

Rating: D+

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Header image shows detail of A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, c. 1776