May 18, 2021

Abbreviations #133: If I Had Your Face, A Room with a View + The Enchanted April

I’d heard a fair bit about If I Had Your Face from friends prior to picking it up (though it was Kristin raving about it that finally had me convinced I needed to give it a shot). This debut fiction novel is about four women and their lives in Seoul: lovely Kyuri employed at a room salon who makes an impulsive mistake with a client that might cost her everything, artist Miho who grew up an orphan but ended up studying art in New York on a scholarship, hair stylist Ara who is obsessed with a boy-band pop star and lives with her best friend, and newlywed Wonna who is trying to get pregnant despite not knowing if she and her husband can afford to raise the child. If I Had Your Face is, as I mentioned in my initial Goodreads review, one of those stories where, once I picked it up, I couldn’t stop reading it until I’d finished. My desire to do so stemmed not only from the author’s very readable style, but also from the simple fact that I cared almost immediately about these women and was fascinated (and disturbed at turns). While there isn’t any direct commentary on page, it’s clear that the author is exploring the beauty and cultural standards, as well as the misogyny still prevalent in Korea. While the novel is fictional, it does read as a very honest and unapologetic look at what it might take for someone to survive and thrive in Korean society and it was fascinating. I’m glad that I finally picked up this novel, and I certainly look forward to reading more from Frances Cha. (I actually listened to this one on audiobook! It has four different narrators, one for each character, and it truly helped me keep track of who was who. All the narrators did a brilliant job bringing their characters to life.)

Pub Info: April 21, 2020 by Ballantine Books | Add it on Goodreads

I genuinely never know how I’m going to feel about a classic whenever I pick one up. But it’s pleasing to be able to report that I genuinely found A Room with a View quite enjoyable! This classic by E.M. Forster centers around Lucy Honeychurch, an English middle class young lady who is on a holiday abroad in Florence that allows her to experience things that change her perceptions and feelings. I genuinely found many of the moments in this story amusing, especially the almost rom-com level shenanigans that occur all throughout. It was a treat to have part of the story set in Italy, including some particularly touristy type activities. But it was also fun to see what happens after the vacation, when Lucy has returned home and now has to decide on the future she wants for herself. A Room with a View was a fun one to listen to (and isn’t very long at all, which made it a less intimidating classic for me to tackle), and it resolves quite neatly (though a touch too quickly, in my opinion) at the end. I’m glad I finally got around to reading it!

Pub Info: September 1, 2011 by Hodder & Stoughton | Add it on Goodreads

I decided that April would be the perfect time to pick up The Enchanted April, a classic that I’ve had on my bookshelf for a few years now. This short novel is about four women who end up pooling their resources in order to rent a medieval castle on the Italian coast for the month of April. Each woman needs a reprieve for a different reason, and their time at the castle might prove to be just the thing they required. Now, I’m pleased to report that I did like The Enchanted April. Even though the writing is simple enough to make reading this an easy task, it did take me a couple of chapters before I was hooked. The plot is simple, and it would have been good yet forgettable, were it not for two other elements: the setting and the characters. I appreciated the Italian coast setting, especially the romantic vibe of a castle that’s worn and in slight disrepair, surrounded by flowers and countryside. I felt transported as I read, and that’s what I had been hoping for when I’d originally picked it up. (Also, when am I ever going to be able to go to the Italian countryside?) And I felt affectionate towards the four women who make up our primary cast: the timid Mrs. Wilkins who blossoms immediately upon embarking on their adventure, the respectable Mrs. Arbuthnot who longs to be back in the blissful romance of the early days with her husband, the elderly Mrs. Fisher who is lonely for company and Lady Caroline who simply wants to be left to her own devices to think and not just be noticed for her looks. Everything sped up towards the resolution of this novel, and there was a distinct lack of real investment in any of the character, but I didn’t mind that, as I’d already resigned myself to only getting this tiny glimpse at these characters and their lives pretty much from the start. The Enchanted April wound up being a lovely slice of life story that captured a very specific mood, and as I was in the right frame of mind for it at the time, it worked out quite well.

Pub Info: August 4, 2011 by Virago Press (or. 1922) | Add it on Goodreads


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