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.
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.