Saturday, February 12, 2011

Four Words for Ahern's Newest: P.S. I Love You

(Image from Indiebound)

In the Acknowledgments section of her newest book, Irish novelist Cecelia Ahern writes:

In The Book of Tomorrow I share my belief in the magic of books, how I believe books must contain some sort of homing device, which allows them to draw the correct reader to them. Books choose their readers, not the other way around. I believe that booksellers are the matchmakers (p. 312).

I have to agree with her, although in my case, it's usually book bloggers who set me up with great stories. Case in point: The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern. The author's best known for her debut novel, P.S. I Love You, which enjoyed bestsellerdom, then became a movie starring Hillary Swank and Gerard Butler. Despite the story's popularity, I couldn't get past its first chapter. So, I was a tiny bit reluctant to pick up Ahern's newest venture. Still, rave reviews in Book Bloggerland persuaded me to give it a go. The first page convinced me: this book and I belonged together. Really. It was love at first sight (well, first read).

The book revolves around 16-year-old Tamra Goodwin, a wealthy Dubliner whose world starts to crumble when her father commits suicide. It's not just his death that shocks her, but also the reason behind it: George Goodwin owed so much money that he died with barely a euro to his name. As the bank repossesses the family's home, Tamra's mother sells off everything she can to pay her husband's debt. Now Tamra, the girl who swathed herself in designer-ware, swung at tennis balls on her private court, and played princess in a 7,000-square-foot mansion, is homeless, penniless, and not too happy about it either. She's stuck living in a cramped cottage in the countryside, miles away from anything that's anything, with her eccentric aunt and uncle.

Aunt Rosaleen takes charge of Tamra's mother, who's almost comatose with grief, leaving the teenager to find something - anything - to do. As Tamra explores the area, she finds all kinds of wondrous things, including a ruined castle, a traveling bookmobile run by a very sexy librarian, an unconventional nunnery and a mysterious diary. While each discovery holds its own secrets, it's the last that has her completely flummoxed. Drawn to the old-fashioned book with its leather cover and gold padlock, Tamra takes it home to pry it open. When she succeeds, she's disappointed to find that it's a journal, every page blank. She's never been into writing, but these days she's bored enough to try just about anything. This time, as Tamra opens the diary, she's shocked to discover that the first few pages are already filled, covered with words written in her own handwriting, words she's sure she never penned. The entry's dated for the next day. A practical joke, she assumes, until all the things written in the diary come true.

Tamra doesn't know how the diary works, but she believes in its magic. Somehow, it's leading her, luring her to investigate the dark secrets that swirl around Kilsaney Castle. The more Tamra pries, the more confused she becomes. What happened to the castle? Why did the Kilsaneys abandon it? Why does timid Rosaleen yank the mail out of Tamra's hands, forbid her from entering the garage, and insist that Tamra's mother does not need a doctor when she so clearly does? And, most importantly, what does it all have to do with her? Something sinister's going on in the Irish countryside and Tamra's going to find out what. Even if it kills her. Which it just might.

Family secrets, a magic diary, a handsome Irish book lender - you can see why I find The Book of Tomorrow so intriguing. Add in a bit of humor, a healthy dose of teenage angst, and some good, old-fashioned mysteries and, really, what's not to love? Okay, I would have liked more depth from the male characters (Marcus and Weseley are so similar I can barely tell them apart), and some of the plot points come off as a bit contrived, but the story overall does not disappoint. Not in the least. In fact, it's one of those magical novels Ahern referred to, the kind that pulls the right reader to them, then proceeds to enchant the heck out of them. After devouring her latest novel, I have only four words for Ms. Ahern: P.S. I Love You.

(Readalikes: It reminds me of other books about family secrets, though no specific titles come to mind.)

Grade: B+

If this were a movie, it would be rated: R for language (a handful of F-bombs, plus milder invectives), some violence and sexual content (not graphic)

To the FTC, with love: I received an ARC of The Book of Tomorrow from the generous folks at Harper Collins. Thank you!

5 comments:

  1. PS I Love You is the only book I've read by this author, but it sounds excellent! I saw it in the supermarket the other day and declined to pick it up. Next week I will though!

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  2. I have read this book and feels that she could have done better with this book. Overal it was not a bad read.

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  3. Slowest - I really liked THE BOOK OF TOMORROW. I don't know if I'll give P.S. I LOVE YOU another shot or not. Maybe ...

    Mama - Ahern probably could have done more with it, I agree, but I loved this book anyway!

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  4. I like the sound of this very much indeed. Will check my library for it.

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  5. I read Love Rosie, I while ago, but I think I may look for this one. I also downloaded something free to my Kindle by Ahern.
    I am your newest follower. My blog has book reviews,stories of being a wife and mother, and much more. I hope you will stop by some time!
    I'm excited to poke around your blog some more.

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