When Arden meets Mac she quickly falls for the handsome, charismatic film lecturer. Their love is the sort you see in movies: dramatic, exciting and all-consuming… and complicated.
A love like theirs could never last.
But years later, whilst visiting a friend in hospital, Arden sees the one face she could never forget. Badly injured, Mac can only make brief references to the classic films they once watched together. Which is all it takes for Arden to remember everything…
Will Arden ever find a movie-worthy love again?
Everything about this book is cinematic. Right from the off, as Arden walks home alone during the weird post-Christmas/pre-New Year period, the author weaves words into vivid images which play in the mind. The intrinsic link to film is within the title, but I didn’t quite imagine the theme would quite so successfully translate as it did. It barely felt as if I was reading at all – this book is just screaming out to be made into a film!
I devoured this novel, and my initial thoughts that it would be light and fluffy were proved wrong. The main character, Arden is a complex character. Her past completely and utterly defines her present in such a way that it cripples her from living life. The Arden of the present is a shell, and the contrast could not be more stark when we see her as she once was; young, vivacious and in love with Mac, a university professor who she happens across two decades later, a chance meeting which invokes her walk down memory lane.
As the reader gets to learn more about Arden and about her past relationship with Mac, it is obvious that he fulfills the movie stereotype of The Leading Man, at least in Arden’s mind. Theirs was a complex relationship, and there were times when I wondered how much of a reliable narrator Arden was, and whether her love of film had shone an idealistic light on this relationship and this man, particularly given the progressively dark path she had gone down since. Although I loved the exploration of their relationship, I never felt a yearning for them to be together, in fact I questioned just how good he actually was for her. I quickly felt very protective over Arden, and what I wanted for her was lasting happiness and for her to be free of the crushing belief that she wasn’t good enough, which was heartbreaking to read.
The novel is one of rediscovery for Arden. Her memories a poignant reminder of everything she hasn’t done with her life. As much as her present is tinged with sadness, as the layers are peeled back and we learn more, there is also hope and love to be found. I was left with a tear in my eye on more than one occasion.
The one relationship I was rooting for, however was Arden and Becky. Once best friends, the circumstances of Arden’s life has torn them apart. I could have wept for Arden as she considered herself unworthy of friendship. For me, friendship was a more central and a more important theme than romance. Whether it be the broken friendship between Arden and Becky or the strangely awkward, developing friendship between Arden and James as they sat by Mac’s bedside.
I also found the mother/daughter relationship between Arden and her mother, Marilyn to be particularly interesting. A family member close to me has a similarly complicated relationship with their mother and as such I well understood Arden’s misplaced sense of duty and the sense of loss for the person her mother should have been to her. It was the one area of the book that I didn’t feel as if I had a true sense of closure – perhaps it was simply that my personal connection coloured my reading of it, but I finished the book feeling wanted something more from this element.
I can’t close off this review without talking about the movies themselves. The List of movies Mac and Arden watch together throughout their relationship, I, rather shamefully, had watched only a couple of, and even then it was more than a decade ago. Because of this book, however, one of my promises to myself this year is to watch more classic films – both on The List and not. I’ve recently watched Fatal Attraction, the first on The List and I thought it was fantastic. I wonder if I watched all those films mentioned in the book, if I’ll pick up little easter eggs I didn’t notice the first time round?
Everything about this book uplifted me and left my heart singing by the end. Pain and heartbreak drives the story, but hope, love and friendship are woven wonderfully into the narrative. It’s a beautiful story about the ability to rediscover yourself and take charge of your own life – no matter what your story, or your age.
*I requested the opportunity to read this book through Netgalley. The decision to read was my own, and this review forms my honest opinion.