Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Review: Unrequited Alice by Sarah Louise Smith

Published March 16, 2017 by Crooked Cat Books

A Bridesmaid really shouldn’t be in the love with the groom…

I stared at my suitcase, contemplating the following three facts:

After months of planning, it was finally time for Hannah’s hen weekend.
In just one more month, she’d be getting married to Ed.
I really had to fall out of love with Ed before the wedding.

A bridesmaid really shouldn’t be in love with the groom… but Alice just can’t help herself. Ed is her perfect man, and she can’t get him out of her head.

Until she meets Toby – who offers to help her move on. But what if he’s just setting her up for an even bigger fall?

In Chinese there is a concept called yuan fen (緣份), defined as "predestined affinity or relationship" - yuan (緣) means "fate" while fen (份) means "a share or a portion." While often used to describe romantic relationships, this concept that "two people can be drawn inexorably together through an innate connection in the universe" applies to any relationship--and the focus is always on the bond which draws two people together, not what they may be fated to accomplish together. There's also the related expression you yuan mei you fen (有緣沒有份), indicating that two people may be fated to have attraction to each other, but not have the destiny for the relationship to continue for the rest of their lives.

All this to say that Unrequited Alice is an exploration of yuan fen -- Alice clearly has yuan with Ed and Toby, but which one does she actually have yuan fen? What I liked about the novel is that Alice is very much aware that she ought to get over her extended crush on Ed, that it's not good for her sense of self or for her relationship with her oldest friend, but the novel also acknowledges the very real emotional and physical response one has to people in our lives. Yet despite sometimes finding herself in sticky situations, Alice always acts with grace and self-awareness. Sometimes there is a connection between people, but one or the other isn't emotionally available at the right time or there are physical obstacles to a relationship; relationships can be complicated!

What didn't work for me was some of the dialogue, which sometimes had a character speak overly long and thus came across as unauthentic. In real life, exchanges between people are often shorter, with pauses of breath and interruptions, and so I found often it jarring, taking me out of the narrative. To be fair, though, this may be a owing to the author and characters being British, whose speaking patterns are different from Americans.

Rating: 3 Stars

I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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