In Bookends, four friends in their 30s cope with changes. Following a dream, Cath is leaving a stable job to open a bookstore with her friend Lucy. Meanwhile, Lucy's husband, Josh, seems to be straying into the arms of an old college flame, and longtime friend Simon finds that his new beau is not winning favor among his dearest friends.
Popular British author Green (Jemima J and Mr. Maybe) follows up her two hits with a less sparkling effort that examines the intricacies of enduring friendships. In college 10 years ago, a small group of misfits "dowdy Catherine, gay Simon, cute naOf Josh and his object of affection, the regally beautiful Portia"were best friends. After a messy split from Portia, the others have continued their friendship without her. While promiscuous Si and celibate Cath have lousy luck with men, Josh is happily married to earthy Lucy. The members of the tightly knit quartet commiserate about extra body weight, job dissatisfaction and the search for love, but are basically content"until Portia reenters their lives and threatens their stability. Green touts her return as almost sinister, but the forecasted tornado ends up a mere zephyr. The novel opens with a promising bang, only to peter out before fulfilling its potential. Green has a knack for creating both atmosphere and characters that ring true, but the dialogue is sometimes strangely stilted and does little to propel the oft-meandering plot. There are some bright spots, like Cath's blossoming relationship with dreamboat James, but they are too few and far between to steady the pace. (June 11) Forecast: Bookends was a London Times bestseller and, based on the success of its predecessors here"including Mr. Maybe, which appears simultaneously in paper"her audience will forgive her this miss and still pick it up for the beach. Major ad/promo; author appearances in New York and Connecticut. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
In her follow-up to Jemima J and Mr. Maybe, Green once again takes on the world from a youngish single woman's perspective, but this time with a slightly larger cast of characters. Though primarily Catherine's story, this novel also includes Josh, Cath's married friend; his wife and son; and Simon, Cath's (somewhat stereotypically) homosexual best friend. They all met at school, where the perfect, rich Portia was their idol. Though she eventually toppled off her pedestal, the others have maintained their broken circle. Fast-forward a few years, and Portia resurfaces. Thus, Cath must deal with the best friend whose loss she never really got over while also achieving her dream of opening a bookstore and finally availing herself of love. This novel is touted as Green's next, more mature step, but it's not that original or interesting. Cath is a frustrating character, and the dialog is uninspired and generic. The only inspired stroke is Portia; she's a much more intriguing character than any of the others. Recommended for libraries with large popular fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/02.] Amanda Glasbrenner, New York Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
With more warmth and fuzziness than Harrod's sweater department, up-and-comer Green (Mr. Maybe, 2001, etc.) offers a near-perfect-and near perfectly cliched-romantic wish-fulfillment fantasy, complete with perfect gay best friend, perfect bookshop, perfect Hugh Grant-like love object, and perfectly coy tricks to keep the lovers apart for 400 pages. Cathy (wisecracking, frizzy hair, slightly overweight, can't be bothered with makeup), Josh, and Si all met at university, when the center of their circle was elegant, stunning, Portia. All changed when Portia seduced Josh just so somebody else couldn't have him, then walked away. Ten years later, Josh has married perfect wife and mother Lucy. Cath-long celibate but content to spend her free time in the warm glow of her perfect kitchen with best friend Si-has a successful advertising career. And nobody has seen Portia since graduation. When Lucy, the best cook in London, proposes that she and Cath open a bookstore/cafe, they meet charming real-estate agent James, who, as it happens, is also a brilliant painter. Everything is perfectly lovely, studded with long cozy brunches and dinners, until the shop opens and Portia, now a celebrity TV writer, walks back into their lives. From there, Green pushes forward her scenes that slather on the coziness "like layers of snuggly warm clothes" with glaringly obvious plot-teasers (Did Portia come back for Josh? Is James sleeping with the sexy au pair? Will James forgive Cath for canceling their date? Will Si realize that his arrogant boyfriend is a bastard?) that could be resolved with a phone call but aren't. Even the one bit of grim reality (Si turns up HIV-positive), used first to keep Cath and Jamesapart a bit longer, turns into an opportunity for true love and another dinner party. For a certain middle-of-the-road, book-loving, romantic sensibility, a perfect escape novel. Despite its off-the-charts predictability, only the coldest of hearts will not be warmed.
"Green gives readers a loably imperfect protagonist, a heart-to-heart narrative voice and a bumpy, error-strewn highway to romance. Bottom line: Pluck it off the shelf."
"A near-perfect romantic wish-fulfillment fantasy...only the coldest hearts will not be warmed."
"Single or spoken for, you'll find a character you can relate to in this page-turner about dating, marriage, parenthood, career goals, jealousy and of course love."
"You'll love this one...a bit of candy perfect for the bath, pool, or beach."
"Page-turningly irresistible...[Green] has perfect pitch."
"Quick, witty, unputdownable and perfect beach reading. Don't miss it."
"A hugely enjoyable novel about love and friendship."
"The author of the successful Mr. Maybe does it again."
– She (London)
"Funny and poignant--you'll devour it in one sitting."