Saturday, June 5, 2021

Watermelon Sugar, Why?

*Amazon UK link is an affiliate


It's not often I want to write a full blog post about a book mere moments after finishing it, but that's exactly where I am with this one. 

The Idea of You is creating a bit of a buzz online at the moment. Originally published in 2017, it's being re-released by Penguin Michael Joseph UK in July 2021.

 I first heard of this book in a Vogue article from last December that dubbed it "The Sleeper Hit of the Pandemic". Described as a "romance novel inspired by Harry Styles", I forgot all about it until I saw a group of people share PR images on Twitter yesterday. The PR package states in bold writing "THIS WILL KEEP YOU UP ALL NIGHT" - I mean, I had to read it after that. I downloaded it on Kindle* and tore through it (although it did not, in fact, keep me up). 

The basic premise is this: Soléne is the thirty-nine year old co-owner of a chic art gallery in L.A. that focuses only on art by women or people of colour. She's divorced, her husband having moved on with a new relationship, and they share custody of a twelve year old daughter, Isabelle. Soléne gets roped into taking Isabelle and a group of her school friends to an August Moon concert and meet-and-greet. August Moon are a five-piece British pop band. One of the members, Harry Styles Hayes Campbell, catches Soléne's eye and so begins our affair. 

Hayes is twenty, a mere eight years older than Isabelle. And therein lies the problem for me. I actually surprised myself with how judgemental I became while reading this - there's a nine year age gap between myself and my own husband. I don't bat an eyelid at an age gap usually. But something about this made me feel really uncomfortable, even though both are consenting adults. Maybe it's because Hayes is only a couple of years older than my own eldest child? I couldn't see Hayes as anything but an older teenager, and those have never been anything but scary to me, even when I WAS a teenager. 

Try as I might, I couldn't enjoy this at all, and here's why: 

- Several times, the characters make reference to how Soléne could be Hayes' mother. I don't know how this is supposed to be a turn-on (unless you're Oedipus). It just took me out of the story and reminded me of how young this guy was. 

- Hayes was super immature. This didn't feel like a sexual relationship despite the copious amounts of quite graphic sex. It was very much a codependent mother/son dynamic and that gave me the creeps. 

- I couldn't get past the Harry Styles stuff. A lovely young man by all accounts with some great music, but not my cup of tea personally and not someone I want to fantasize about. I fear that the unthinkable has finally happened - I've aged out of my pop star fantasy. 

- Isabelle, at twelve/thirteen, had more maturity than Hayes. She handled the situation much better even though she felt completely betrayed and embarrassed by her mother. At one point Hayes looks at this literal child and says to Soléne "she has your mouth". Considering the only mention of Sol's mouth up to that point had been how great it looked/felt when it was attached to a certain appendage, VOM. 

I read over that Vogue article again and I fully appreciate where the author is coming from - there's a severe shortage of romance novels or movies that feature women in their late thirties or early forties. At one point in the book, Soléne mentions how dismissive people can be once a woman hits that age - she is reduced to either "mom" or "businesswoman". I completely agree, and I think there is this notion that "women of a certain age" don't enjoy being sexual or passionate. Ultimately, this is a novel about women reclaiming their sexuality and living out their fantasies. This is all fantastic - this just wasn't it for me.

My reaction to this book surprised me, considering the fact that I'm no stranger to a romance novel and I love a good daydream. That's not to say you might not enjoy it - I'm a big fan of reading something for yourself before jumping on a bandwagon going in either direction (it's why I read the Fifty Shades trilogy back in the day - I wanted to be informed in my ranting) so if you do give it a go, I'd love to hear your thoughts. If the success of books like this and the aforementioned Fifty Shades series show anything, it's that there's a huge market for rom-coms and erotica featuring women in their thirties and forties. Hopefully this will lead to more being published, and who knows - maybe the next one will be the one I fall for.

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