by Allison Pearson
This is one of those rare books that starts out strong and just gets better and better as it goes along. The novel opens with a one-page prologue set in 1998, where the novel’s protagonist, 38-year-old Petra, has just lost her mother. Tucked in the back of her mother’s closet, she finds an extraordinary letter, addressed to her, 25 years overdue.
From there, the novel is told in two halves. Part I is set in 1974. The opening line is, “His favorite colour was brown.” David Cassidy’s, of course. Petra and her best friend Sharon are 13, and like every other girl in Wales they are hopelessly in love with him. Or perhaps not hopelessly. Hope springs eternal in the form of Petra’s innocent fantasies:
“I would be hit by a car. Not a serious injury, obviously, just bad enough to be taken to hospital by ambulance. David would be told about my accident and he would rush to my bedside. Things would be awkward at first, but we would soon get talking and he would be amazed by my in-depth knowledge of his records, particularly the B-sides. I would ask him how he was enjoying the fall and if he needed to use the bathroom. It would not be at all weird, it would be cool. David would be impressed by my command of American. Jeez. He would smile and invite me to his house in Hawaii where I would meet his seven horses and there would be garlands round our necks and we would kiss and get married on the beach. I was already worried about my flip-flops.”
It is also about Bill Finn, the recent college grad with the unenviable job of inventing content for the Essential David Cassidy Magazine. The first half comes to head with all of the central characters at the infamous White City concert where a young fan lost her life. Cassidy retired not long after at the age of 24, and Petra, Sharon, and Bill grew up.
The second half of the novel jumps forward approximately 25 years to 1998, and opens with the line: “The day her mother died, she found out her husband was leaving her.” Thus proving that being 38 isn’t necessarily any easier than being 13. It is while mourning both her mother and her marriage that Petra discovers the letter from 1974 informing her that she and Sharon were the winners of the Ultimate David Cassidy Quiz and an all expense paid trip to meet David on the set of The Partridge Family. Her mother kept it from her; she never knew.
“One boy with a shoe, and one girl without: it could be a scene from a fairy tale… reason cowered before romance. According to romance, there was no coincidence. That was the word that nonlovers used, sad souls in the everyday world, to account for the workings of destiny.”Does it get any better than that? I enjoyed the nostalgia of the first half of this novel, but I’m a grown woman. I know the adult pain that life brings. I loved the second half of this novel, for the relatable reality of Petra’s life and compromises, for the humor that friendship brings to lighten the load, and for giving me a fairy tale that I could believe in.