Light it is indeed. Using the tried and true format of alternating narratives, Brown links the lives of Madeleine and her grandmother Margie, and their quest for happiness.
Madeleine seeks refuge from an unhappy marriage and a controlling husband in her childhood bedroom. Her mother is nearly as picky as the man she is trying to ignore, yet, she finds room to breathe in the small town that she couldn’t wait to leave years ago.
While home she finds a box of her grandmother’s things, including a diary from a few months spent in Paris in the 1920s. Her escapist tendencies become unchecked and Madeleine dives in. For her, this is a chance to discover a time in her grandmother’s life she didn’t know anything about.
Helen led her up a hysterically pitched flight of stairs to the second floor, where there was a sun room above the foyer, as bright and clean as the floor below was dark and cool, and through a rabbit warren of hallways, then up more stairs to the third floor. … In her head, the drum beat of her disobedience and the surrey of her mother’s disapproval played on, but she felt no shame. … She would be like those writers she saw in the cafes, head bent down, scribbling furiously in her notebook… ~Pg.137-8
And as she reads the diaries, it becomes clear to her (and us) that though the details differ, Madeleine is dealing with the same issues of control and freedom, and she realizes she needs a real change in her life.
The novel is a light read, towards the spectrum of “chick lit”, or perhaps a Lifetime movie. It’s not that there is anything wrong with it, but it is not for me.
There is tension, but no real conflict. The reader is hoping Madeleine will make a certain choice, which is pretty obvious at the outset. I found myself hoping that it would be revealed that the grandmother never actually went to Paris, that she just made those stories up and only wished she had gone. The ache of regret would have been so much more meaningful and made it all the more imperative to the reader that Madeleine break the cycle.
Thank you to Carolyn at Putnam for the review copy.
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons (July 12, 2016)
Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches