A while back, I reviewed Ann Hood’s The Knitting Circle. Now, Open Road Media is releasing a number of Ann Hood’s early novels as ebooks and I’ve been asked to review Something Blue, a story about three women living in New York as they must confront those quintessential questions concerning their careers and the men in their lives: how did I get here and where am I going.
Katherine and Lucy were sorority sisters and roommates in college but it’s been a while since they’ve seen one another and they’ve drifted apart. Lucy is living in New York, working as a Whirlwind Weekend tour guide while she strives to make a name for herself as a children’s book illustrator and avoids making a decision in her stalled relationship with aspiring dancer Jasper. She’s the first person Katherine thinks of when she impulsively abandons her life with fiancé Andy and heads for New York. But Katherine soon realizes that it’s not going to be the nostalgic reunion she anticipated as she gets to know Lucy’s new best friend, Julia, an apartment sitter and chameleon who seems to be the epitome of everything she, Katherine, is not.
I found Something Blue interesting to read, mostly because it was first published in 1991. It definitely shows it’s age with references that are, over twenty years later, quite dated. Given that I was only turning four in 1991, my familiarity with most of the references is largely derived from my parents, aunts, and uncles reminiscing at family gatherings over the years. But despite the difference in decade, I’m now pretty close in age to the novel’s characters and a lot of the issues they deal with remain relevant to twenty-something women today, struggling to figure out what they want for themselves and from their relationships.
While Something Blue was probably pretty progressive at the time of its publication, it also has an unrealistic, almost fairy tale quality to it. Despite being on their own in the city, none of the girls seem to have much in the way of money problems. Julia takes temp jobs here and there but doesn’t have to worry about money thanks to royalties from her mother’s successful children’s book series while Katherine has enough in her savings to carry her through to the fall when she can start a teaching job. Lucy’s Whirlwind Weekends job doesn’t sound particularly pleasant but pays well enough that she can spend the rest of the week pursuing her dreams of becoming an illustrator. There’s nothing about paying the bills, rent, or paying off student loans. Some of this might have more to do with the different states of the economy between 1991 and 2014, but their biggest concern related to their jobs is tied to personal fulfillment.
In the final chapters, as each character’s journey of personal growth comes to a triumphant conclusion, it becomes clearer that while it acknowledges deeper issues, Something Blue does dive into them in any real or profound way. It carries hints of larger women’s issues but stops just short of confronting them in a way that resonates, leaving the novel more optimistic and idyllic than realistic, and landing it solidly in the lighter realm of chick lit, occasionally glancing across the way at serious literature.