Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Crossed Wires, by Rosy Thornton--a review

I was excited to receive a copy of Rosy Thornton's latest novel, Crossed Wires, before its debut in the United States in April. Last year I read her earlier book, Hearts and Minds, which I really enjoyed, so I was very much looking forward to this one.

In Crossed Wires, single mother Mina works the phones at an insurance company in Sheffield. It is while answering the phone at work that Mina first comes into contact with Cambridge lecturer Peter, who calls in to report an accident he's had in his Land Rover, hitting a tree while trying to avoid killing a cat. Peter is also a single father, a widower raising twin girls on his own. Peter and Mina are separated by geography, and they come from different walks of life, but they find a connection, and develop a relationship over the phone, bonding over the problems they both have raising children on their own.

It's hard to put this novel into a category. It seems that Ms. Thornton's publishers want her work to be firmly in the romance category, considering the covers that end up on her books. But Ms. Thornton writes romances in the same way that Jane Austen, Barbara Pym, or Edith Wharton wrote romance--it is as much social commentary and pyschological portraiture as it is the story of boy meets girl.

In this book, Ms. Thornton has created endearing characters with real problems, people you can really root for. I love that the sympathy Peter and Mina have with each other develops in spite of their differences, and that it helps each of them through tough times when they are misunderstood by those around them. Thornton's main characters are often put upon, or taken advantage of by family and friends, and you really just want them to find a little well-deserved happiness. That is the driving force of the narrative, what keeps me turning the pages. But I find I am really reading the book not to find out what happens, but to get to know the characters better.

The characters here are beautifully drawn. Peter and Mina are both outsiders, in a way; Peter as a widower raising two daughters, and Mina as a single mother who also has to referee the relationship between her prickly mother and her wayward sister. And as outsiders, they are happier when they find each other. The minor characters are really well done, too. I love Peter's friends, the gay neighbor couple, who babysit and offer comfort when needed, and I think Mina's mother is wonderfully brassy and difficult.

I found this book, with its endearing and colorful characters, and its attention to detail, very emotionally satisfying. I also found the author's earlier book, Hearts and Minds, to be similar--comforting, satisfying, warm and accessible, yet with a sharp sense of humor and a keen eye for the details of her characters' worlds. I was happy when Crossed Wires turned out to be satisfying, too--maybe even more so, as I thought the story was better realized. And I'll be happy to enter Rosy Thornton's world again when she writes another book.


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed this - I loved it too! Such a warm and lovable story.

Rebecca H. said...

This sounds great! I really enjoyed Hearts and Minds, and I'm glad to hear this one is similarly good.

Gentle Reader said...

litlove--Thornton is now on my list of comfort reads :)

dorothy--another charmer, which I was glad of too.