"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Thursday, January 27, 2011

If You Could See Me Now by Cecelia Ahern

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Summary: An unhappy, busy woman meets her nephew's imaginary friend. 

I didn't care for  Cecelia Ahern's The Gift but a friend convinced me to read another book by her.

I'm glad I did. Now I understand much more about Cecelia Ahern's writing style. Maybe it's an Irish thing, but Ahern writes about modern magic. Not the modern magic that Patricia Briggs does, but special situations that might seem real for a moment.

In If You Could See Me Now, Ivan is the adult imaginary friend suddenly assigned to Elizabeth's nephew Luke. And then Ivan becomes assigned to Elizabeth too. Elizabeth is 34 years old, single, and utterly responsible. Every inch of Elizabeth's house is spotless and perfect; nothing out of place, messy or colorful. Elizabeth has adopted her alcoholic sister's son Luke, and is constantly bailing Saoirse (pronounced Sore-shaw) out of jail, paying her rent, buying her food and clothes, loaning her money and helping her again and again despite Saoirse's theft and insults.
Saoirse and her father knew how to pull those strings and so she remained their puppet. As a result, she was alone, raising a child she never wanted, with the love of her life living in America a married man and father of one.
Poor Elizabeth. And the story unfolds in two parts, we see Elizabeth as a young girl, hoping that if she is just good enough, her mother will come back and stay and that her mother will keep her fanciful promises. So as an adult, Elizabeth is very careful to never use her imagination or encourage Luke too, since dreaming only leads to pain.

Elizabeth is furious when Ivan appears to Luke and Elizabeth won't put up with any nonsense. Yet in a few days, Elizabeth meets a nice looking and care-free young man, also named Ivan. We, the readers, know that Ivan is invisible, but Elizabeth never does.  We find Ivan challenging Elizabeth to be silly, choose color, watch falling stars and play with dandelions. Ivan's presence brings joy and laughter to Elizabeth's life, teaching Elizabeth how to open her heart.

As Elizabeth starts to enjoy life, her painful memories start flooding back. She sees the parallels between Saoirse and their mother, and we understand a little more about how little Lizzie became responsible and repressed Elizabeth.

And yet Ivan and Elizabeth start falling in love. Their relationship is a tender precious thing (yet I never felt manipulated as a reader), but we learn that an adult woman could never have a fulfilling relationship with an imaginary man. In trademark Ahern narrative style:
When you drop a glass or a plate to the ground it makes a loud crashing sound. When a window shatters, a table leg breaks, or a picture falls off the wall, it makes a noise. But as for your heart, when that breaks, it's completely silent.
Enjoyable, modern romance and fantasy, and it felt "Irish."

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