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A Hell of a Lot More A Than Y

Erin reads a grownup book that devastates her with the repercussions of war, The Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison.

A Hell of a Lot More A Than Y

BOOK REPORT for The Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison

Cover Story: Awesome, Any Way You Slice It
BFF Charm: Maybe
Swoonworthy Scale: On a Scale of 1 to 10, This Book Earns an Edith Wharton
Talky Talk: Weepy Yet Unflinching
Bonus Factor: That One Episode of Doctor Who Everyone Makes Me Watch, Estate Homes, Ethan Frome
Relationship Status: I'm Not Sure Why This Book Asked Me Out, But I'm Glad It Did

Cover Story: Awesome, Any Way You Slice It

So there are two covers to this book, and I love them both! My copy had the girl with the suitcase, and book covers showing the gangly legs of girls always remind me of Lolita, and I am always happy to be reminded of Lolita. The British version is radically different but I love it equally - little Anna's wistful look back makes my heart hurt a little.

But whichever book cover you get, you can totally flaunt it with pride in any public area, because it screams This Is Serious Adult Fiction. So, uh, don't bring it to an FYA Book Club, I guess.

The Deal:

It's 1939 and while the sleeping giant blissfully snorts and turns over, stealing all the covers, the rest of the world is on the brink of a Second World War. All over London, frightened parents are shipping their children off to homes in the countryside, reasoning that German bombs are more likely to hit London than some tiny village near Cornwall. (Because even Nazis wouldn't destroy Cornish Pasties, obvs.) Eight year old Anna is sent by her mother Roberta to a large estate house in Yorkshire, but unluckily for Anna, she doesn't find any magic wardobes containing a land of talking lions and evil witches.

Instead, she finds Robert and Elizabeth Ashton, the fractured couple who own Ashton Estate. As Anna lives out the war in the relative safety of the northern countryside, she becomes a key player in Robert and Elizabeth's relationship drama, and all three witness the highest and lowest moments of each other's lives.

BFF Charm: Maybe

If I were a fellow evacuee, sharing a dorm room with Anna Sands, I would absolutely make her my best friend. She's bright and curious and doesn't quite know how to fit in with the other children, so often spends her afternoons making up her own games in little pockets of the wooded estate. We could run wild over the lawns together, make up fantastical stories about what the statues do while we're all asleep and defend each other against the casual cruelty of other kids.

However, if I met Anna as an adult, I don't think I'd even want to be her drinking buddy, never mind her bestie. Partly this is because she's an alcoholic, and nothing ruins a good partly like a person who can't hold their liquor, but partly it's just because she's so . . . closed off. The book does a great job of showing the progression from an open-eyed child to a bitter, hard woman, but that doesn't mean I want to be best friends with that woman.

Swoonworthy Scale: On a Scale of 1 to 10, This Book Scores an Edith Wharton

Okay, I don't think there's any sense pussy-footing around about this book - it's not the type of book that knowing vague, general spoilers about will ruin. So I'll just say this: everyone in this book cheats on someone. Every single character (save one, actually) who is married ends up cheating on their spouse.

So, you know, that's not so swoony, because anytime I read about cheaters, I think Joey Greco is going to pop out at me in a parking lot, accusing me of cheating on Sweet Valley High with a book that isn't actually awful. This could happen, too, because Cheaters is filmed in Texas and I bet Joey Greco is a very studious reader!

That said, even though there is a lot of cheating in this book, Alison draws a love story that makes you wish everything could work out for the best, even when you're pretty sure it won't.

Talky Talk: Weepy Yet Unflinching

Lord, this book. It crushed me. It was just so . . . SAD. I ended up finishing it while tucked up on a chair on my aunt's screened-in porch, the Mississippi summer rain beating down outside, which barely covered the sound of me bawling my fucking eyes out. It was relentlessly despairing, but in a resolute, unflinching way, which I loved. If this book were narrated like Pushing Daisies, Jim Dale would say, "The facts are these: there is a war and everything sucks."

But don't let that dissuade you! We all need a good weep every now and again! It cleanses the eyeballs!

Bonus Factor: That One Episode of Doctor Who Everyone Makes Me Watch

So, here's the thing:I don't like Doctor Who. I know! I know! It's the GREATEST TELEVISION SHOW EVER CREATED, {INSERT YOUR FAVORITE DOCTOR HERE} FOR LIFE! But it's also CHEESY and has TERRIBLE PRODUCTION VALUES and I just don't care about the Doctor or his endless Companions, okay? The ONLY thing I like about Doctor Who is the Master, and that's just because I would watch John Simm in anything, even if he's, like, just laying in a coma or something. (Ha ha! That's a funny joke, come on!)

And if it sounds like I know a fair amount about Doctor Who for someone who doesn't like it, it's because I DO. Because I HAVE TRIED. I really have. Because many, many people whose opinions in life I not only respect but basically try to imitate in order to seem cooler love Doctor Who, and they have all tried to get me to watch it.

And they have ALL tried to get me to watch it by showing me the episode "The Empty Child," in which the Doctor and Billie Piper's Eyebrows land in WW2-London and there are all these creepy kids hiding from the Blitz and they have gas masks and it's a totally creepy episode, because British kids are creepy ANYWAY (sorry, Brits! I love all of you but I am pretty sure your nation's children could all star in The Shining.) and British kids wearing masks are EVEN CREEPIER and WHY DO PEOPLE KEEP SHOWING ME THIS EPISODE, BECAUSE IT IS SCARY AND I HAVE NIGHTMARES.

Anyway, uh, I got off topic. Point being, this book made me think of that episode of Doctor Who. So if you're one of my zillion friends who have said, "You'd like Doctor Who, you just need to watch the right episodes. Try this one called 'The Empty Child,'" then you will probably like this book.

Bonus Factor: Estate Homes

Is there anything better than a slightly-crumbling estate home in the countryside? No. There is not. Because only there can you imagine that you live at Pemberley and that your husband Mr Darcy is merely out riding the hounds, or whatever it is Professional Gentlemen do. From my extensive research of Jane Austen novels and repeated viewings of Downton Abbey, I'm like 99.9% sure that all of my troubles would be resolved were I to live in a lovely country estate. A country estate. Not a council estate. There is a difference.

Bonus Factor: Ethan Frome

I'm sure you have all experienced the phenomenon in school in which you hated something everyone else loved or, conversely, you loved something everyone else hated. For me, that was Charles Dickens and Ethan Frome. As in, I hate Charles Dickens. But fuck me, I love Ethan Frome.

I know Wharton can be tedious and never met a plot she couldn't string out for 300 extra pages, but she was a BAMF and I love her. And I absolutely love the delicious irony of Ethan Frome. All I'm going to say is . . . you know when I gave the swoonworthy scale a score of Edith Wharton? I meant it.

Casting Call:

Ariel Winter as Anna

There is only one reason, really, to cast Ariel Winter and that reason is to celebrate that in three weeks, the only sitcom I watch finally comes back with new episodes. We love the F Word!

Also, hooray! I get to cast adults!

Dan Stevens as Robert

HI MATTHEW CRAWLEY/EDWARD FERRARS! LET'S MAKE OUT, PLEASE.

Kate Winslet as Elizabeth

Only my girl Kate could handle Elizabeth's . . . forceful personality.

Relationship Status: I'm Not Sure Why This Book Asked Me Out, But I'm Glad It Did

When this book made its way to me across the crowded Javits Center floor, I was, well, a little confused. I mean, I just didn't think I was its type, you know? It was serious Adult Literature, and I was wearing a sparkly airbrushed tshirt of a unicorn holding a martini glass. The book asked me out and I sort of cocked my head and replied, "You know I usually date young adult books, right?" "I have a kid!" the book exclaimed. "Yeah, but that's not really the same thing," I reasoned. But the book was insistent. The book had a kid. I liked books about kids. The book and I should make out.

It only took about ten minutes for me to realize that this book had overstated its young adult credentials and that there would be no ultimately happy coming-of-age tale contained within. But even though I wasn't this book's type, I really fell for it. Soon I just wanted to be with this book all the time and simultaneously introduce this book to several of my friends.

I'm not sure we can maintain our relationship - after all, isn't it going to make fun of me the next time I scream "I HATE YOU LIZ WAKEFIELD" and throw a book across the room in disgust? But I'll still be glad for all the time we spent together, because it was really special.

FTC FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my review copy from Simon and Schuster. I received neither money nor cocktails for this review (damnit!). The Very Thought of You is available in stores now.

Erin Callahan's photo About the Author: Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink. When she isn't drowning in a sea of engineers for whom Dilbert is still uproariously funny, she's writing about books, tv, the cult of VC Andrews and more.
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