This Unrequited Love Thing: The Forever Girl

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Before I went to Edinburgh, I had never read Alexander McCall Smith. I’d barely heard of him (hard to believe now – he’s everywhere!).

But after spending four magical days in that city (seriously, my favourite after Amsterdam) I started looking for books to take me back. Alexander McCall Smith fit that bill in a big way. I’ve since started digging into the 44 Scotland Street series, given Isabel Dalhousie and the Sunday Philosopher’s Club a chance, and even tried his version of Emma (sadly that one doesn’t take place in Edinburgh).

I love McCall Smith’s ability to write about the every day and infuse it with meaning. I love that his books cover parts of the lives of a myriad of different characters and that his love for Edinburgh is evident on every page. He is skilled at contemplating the minutiae of the commonplace and reading his work is like a big ol’ cup of tea on a grey day.

So I was excited to read The Forever Girl.

forever girl

Amanda and David are raising their son and daughter within the ex-pat community on Grand Cayman Island. The nature of the Island (a tax shelter) means that most people on the island have a lot of money. Amanda spends her days at the tennis club, practicing her serve while the children are left in the care of their nanny. Their daughter Sally, decides she’d rather be called Clover at age 4, and finds herself falling in love with James, her childhood best friend.

While Clover is figuring out this love thing, Amanda is finding that life on such a small island, where everyone knows everyone else’s business, can actually be extremely claustrophobic. She realizes that she’s fallen out of love with her husband and is conflicted about what to do about it.

I liked the storyline that centered on Amanda. As she struggles to come to terms with the state of her marriage, she tries to decide what to do about it. Does she want to get out of her marriage? Does she want to change the whole structure of her family or just ride it out? She flirts with the idea of an affair and realizes that in a place this small, there could be serious repercussions that don’t just affect her.

But then Clover takes over the story and I wanted to like Clover but the whole unrequited love thing is getting old for me I think. I have a really hard time with female characters that make decisions based on men. Clover goes to boarding school in Scotland, while her love James, goes to England. Something happened that has made James cool towards Clover but instead of just asking him what’s wrong, she just inwardly shakes and hopes that everything will work out.

Her parents have all this money and she can do anything she wants. She’s a smart girl but she pins all of her hopes and dreams, all of her chances at happiness on the idea of being with this one boy. She closes her mind and her heart to the idea of ever being with anyone else. She travels to Australia and Singapore and all of it is motivated with being near James. But she won’t just say to him “James, I have been in love with you since we were 11.”

I need these kinds of characters to stop. I need to read female characters that say “f*%& this sh*t, I’m not waiting around for this chump, I’m going to make my own destiny.”

I love Alexander McCall Smith but this one? Fell flat for me.

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7 thoughts on “This Unrequited Love Thing: The Forever Girl

  1. I read this last year and felt exactly the same about it. Usually, I’m blandly indifferent to most of AMS’s not-good books but this one I was actively irritated and frustrated by. Clover is pretty much the definition of a wet blanket. I can enjoy constant, loyal characters but it’s appreciated when they have something of interest in their lives other than their loved one. Clover’s fixation on her love for James was alarming – particularly given her lack of any initiative whatsoever (except for half-hearted stalking?) when it comes to being with him.

    • OMG the stalking! That was the most ridiculously pathetic thing I’ve ever read. Why can’t she spend her time trying to run into him while she’s having the best life ever? Why does her life need to revolve around him when apparently he’s not interested in her at all? And then the way it all just ties up neatly? Blind rage.

  2. Ugh. I would feel like giving her a good shake. That doesn’t happen as often in real life as it does in books, does it? I hope not.
    The Amanda story sounds better. Now, I’m curious what she decides to do, and what happens between her and her husband.

    • I wanted to shake her so badly. I really hope it doesn’t! I’m sure that it happens in highschool but I really hope that once people leave and move on with their own lives they actually move on with living their own lives.
      The Amanda story could have been something and he just kind of walked away from it.

  3. I’ve got to admit, I do love your “get it together, girl!” comments (just like in the Dress Shop post!) I’ve never read McCall Smith myself, but I have definitely read these types of situations. It’s almost like listening to a friend talk about a broken heart over someone who never really deserved them in the first place. You read (or listen) in silence wishing you could just grab them by the shoulders and say “you deserve better!”
    I saw your post about getting your book mojo back, and hope it happens soon for you :).

    • I’m so glad you don’t think I’m being overly harsh on fictional characters. I can’t stand reading about these kinds of women. We need more kick ass heroines. Even Lizzie Bennett, a product of her time, not even legally a person, would not stand for this shit.
      I hope my book mojo comes back soon too. It might be time to bring in the big guns: Maeve Binchy.

  4. Pingback: A Return to Edinburgh by Book | The Paperback Princess

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