LANDING by Emma Donoghue (Harcourt), 324 pages, $14.83 paper. Rating: NN
I've been craving a contemporary love story from Emma Donoghue in much the same way that I fantasize about what an Oliver Stone romantic comedy would look like.
Stone's intensity and baroque style could really work with a romance, and I expected the same of Donoghue, whose emotionally charged historical novels (both Slammerkin and Life Mask were year-end NOW top-10 picks) are superb. What might happen if Donoghue applied her immense gifts to a contemporary romance?
Not much, unfortunately. In Landing, small-town Ontarian Jude meets Dubliner Síle on a plane; Síle helps Jude cope after the passenger beside her dies of a heart attack. The two women eventually hook up via e-mail and then, again, in person.
The rest of the novel tracks the couple's attempts to sustain a love relationship - tough given the long-distance context, and exacerbated by Síle's commitment issues and Jude's reluctance to abandon her small-town life. Along the way, we meet the women's friends, who give them all kinds of advice about how to make their connection work.
I wish these people were more interesting. While Donoghue's two main characters have some depth, the conversations in their intimate circles - which do take up a significant hunk of the book - border on banal. In the end, the story lacks complexity.
Donoghue wrote two contemporary novels before she branched out into the historical fiction that significantly raised her game to the level that made me anticipate this new work. Certainly, the prose here is much better than almost anything else available in contemporary lesbo lit, and Donoghue hasn't entirely abandoned her historical fixations ; Jude operates the museum in her town.
But whereas her historical fiction bristles with ideas and outrage, this book is more fizzle than sizzle.