So right off the bat I am going to admit to being wildly nervous about covering a second Sarah Dessen book. First, as this is a favourite of Sarahs, as expressed in the interview and second, this is obviously a fan favourite which provides additional pressure. That being said, Sarah mentioned that I am kicking off the This Lullaby blog series on her blog today and as such I shall dive in. I am currently shaking like a leaf, scared beyond belief but feeling incredibly lucky to have Sarah and her reader’s support. She reads my entries but more importantly she reads your responses to them. Not many readers are this lucky. Not many bloggers are this lucky.
The first word I read when opening my Sarah Dessen gifted (squee) This Lullaby novel is…June. Now for me June symbolises the cold, wet winter of the Southern Hemisphere. A time when I can pull out my eclectic scarves, embracing coats and my fourteen year old Doc Martins. For those in America, it’s the start of summer, lucky you. I am assuming that time and the passing of the months, maybe the summer, is an important facet of the novel’s plot.
“The name of the song is ‘This Lullaby’. At this point, I’ve probably heard it, oh, about a million times. Approximately.”
With this one statement we learn immediately where the title of the novel originates from. The song’s importance is intertwined with her identity. A remembrance of a father she never really knew. The composer of a song that was in honour of her birth after having deserted her mother. Sounds like a keeper.
Multiple marriages are becoming par and course for today’s society. Ever since the queen of the screen, Elizabeth Taylor married for an eighth time there is a mixture of amazement and hilarity at the notion that marriage might work for you an additional time. Personally I think you’ve proved that marriage is something you need to recognise as being beyond you. Outside your skill base. Basically you need to stop throwing weddings. While they might not be people that are great at keep a marriage alive, they are inordinately gifted in their propensity for hope. One must have immense supplies of hope to believe that a fifth marriage will work where others have not. Remy is obviously the one is possession of doubt and cynicism in her family. But I guess that happens when your parents marry in a truck stop, your dad deserts you prior to your birth and you’ve had three step-dads. She is entitled to cynicism.
Remy seems to believe that her mother’s need to be married is about the obtaining of an accessory. That the acquisition of a husband will fix anything. Now I am not sure if Remy is seeing her mother in startling clarity or with the hardened eyes of a child often disappointed. Children can so often be the harshest with their judgement of their parents. At this stage I am unsure as to whether this description of her mother’s motivations is deserved.
It must be incredibly depressing to have this amazingly successful song written about you. Stay with me here a second. Sure Sharona may have been initially wowed by her name in the Kinks song but it would have tired eventually, especially had that song been written by an absentee father. Another example, if I was that ex-girlfriend of James Blunt’s that inspired ‘You’re Beautiful’ I would be on anti-depressants by now. I’m with Remy, cynicism is much more welcoming that the land of optimists, sweetness and light. This is especially apparent when she notes that the song will probably outlive her as well. Depressing, but true.
The first setting of this story is a car dealership which doesn’t give me great hope for Remy’s future step-father. Step-fathers are always a weird proposition. Even if you are happy with your parents splitting, it is always weird to see your mum sharing a life (and worse a bedroom) with another man. I am extremely lucky as my step-dad, Daz, is an awesome bloke with better taste in music than I. You might think I am exaggerating but this is a man who knew about Wolfmother two years before they become successful. Okay back to the story, she’s sitting there in those horrible chairs that both hug your butt and make you sweat at the same time, ewww. He’s a confirmed bachelor who’s changing his ways, this doesn’t sound good.
“He was a portly guy, with an ample stomach and a bit of a bald spot: the word doughy came to mind. But he adored my mother, God help him.”
Neither does the whole role reversal between mother and daughter, why are so many children having to be the grown ups in their relationships with their parents? I also find it a little weird that Remy is planning the wedding rather than her mother. Usually when people have been married as many times as she has, they do it mainly for the pleasantries and fuss of the wedding day. This isn’t the case here. But in seeing Don sign over money as easy as he does, I see another reason for wanting to get hitched. Ka-ching.
If anything particularly grabbed me about the passages regarding Don it was her observation-
“He put one hand on my shoulder, Dad-style, and I tried not to remember all the step-fathers before him that had done the same thing, that same weight, carrying the same meaning. They all thought they were permanent to.”
There is some cynicism there but I detect some sadness. These multiple step-fathers had all, on face value, been trying to connect with Remy, to establish a bond. Not the worst thing in the world but then again you can’t force a new family. My step-dad stepped back and just spoke to us as a mate, rather than as a “step” and that worked best for us. Now my brother and him watch tiresome cricket during the summer, comparing the batting averages and bowling techniques, I would rather die than be exposed to that kind of torture but it’s their thing.
Poor Ruth, I felt for her. Salesmen scare the crap out of me and are probably why I have been stalling on buying a new car for so long. I almost feel like I need a Batman, Kevlar suit to protect me when I enter the car yard. Buying a car is major, while I concede that the colour and the presence of a cup holder are high in my list of requisites, I am not going to just hand money over without trying to finagle a deal. Remy’s mother’s approach is just plain scary.
Remy has just graduated high school and is extremely resentful that her mother’s flakiness means she’s on planning duty. I mean who sleeps in the afternoon unless you are a shift worker, hung over or a dog? Someone needs to get that mum out of bed and take her to parenting class. College is looking really attractive to this girl and I understand why. College is the best way for escape from crazy families. It was my method of escape. Distance makes the heart grow fonder.
Her cynicism is a nice defence mechanism. I recognise it as it’s my own weapon of choice. I think it’s interesting that her whiny existence is interrupted by getting hip-and-shouldered by a random guy. In fact he nearly knocks her off her chair which is an impressive feat even for one of my own kind, the kind that suffer from a loss (or absence) of spatial awareness. The tingle in the zap is telling, I haven’t turned the page yet but I am betting my bottom dollar that this is the man of many dreams, the love interest of this tale, Dexter.
So this guy has curly hair and is wearing an orange t-shirt. Tick one, strike one. I immediately think of a Jonas brother which is not so good, this is automatic reaction to the few mentions of them in Sarah’s blog and twitter I am betting. I – in no shape or form – wish for the romantic lead of this story to resemble a Jonas brother. He’s smiler, but so are any of the pod teens from Disney. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt plus some desperate wishing on my side that he starts looking like Adrian Grenier or a young Colin Firth.. He got me on side from the moment he used her cussing to speak further to her. Girls are automatically intrigued by guys that challenges them – it’s my theory which is in accordance to the bad boy stage most teen girls go through. He’s challenging her acerbity. It’s almost like hate at first sight and you know that there is a fine line between hate and love.
What an opening line –
“I just thought to myself, all of a sudden, that we have something in common. A natural chemistry, if you will. And I have a feeling that something big was going to happen. To both of us. That we were, in fact, meant to be together.”
That was either 1) a demonstration of pre-cognitive ability, or 2) a smooth opening line or 3) the biggest crock of do-do that I have ever heard. I am going with the latter, that was too corny to be honest. Remy reacts just as I would react, disbelief tempered with a serious case of anger. He’s pretty darned pushy writing his number on her hand when she had already called him an asshole and clear displays of dislike. He’s got gumption that’s for sure.
As a side note the whole van thing is hilarious, that his friends stop then as he’s getting in drive a little further. It’s funny as heck to watch and to do to someone but as the victim it kind of sucks. And yes this is the fabled Dexter I have heard about. The only Dexter I have any experience with or knowledge of is the Dexter on Showtime. The serial killing, dry humoured man who made me like a murderer. We’ll see about the new one.
Remy arrives home to a house smelling like a crystal store with her mother banging away on her typewriter. I love the idea of someone who chooses to write via those means. That her computer is solely for solitaire, which I personally found hysterical. Using a typewriter would drive me insane though, the sound, the need for accuracy, the smell of the ink, all things I could do without. I love my laptop, I’d marry it if I could. Romance writers are always depicted as ditzy, whimsical types but I always figured they were more by-the-book types as there really is a very firm formula with most romance novels (and rom-com’s for that matter). Sarah nailed it on the head with the weird names that these writers always have for their leads. In my room alone there are books that feature characters christened with the names-
Christopher is an interesting individual. I suspect that should my brother meet the right gal, he too would be whipped. Let’s face it, Chris is happily whipped to the nth degree but it has been to his benefit. Jennifer Anne, I am immediately distrustful but she could be nice, in a perfect world maybe. And Sarah’s always fantastic at portraying the reality of life -she’s probably going to be a head case that will break his heart. Then again that would be a cliché, the psychotic, domineering girlfriend and she could be the polar opposite. I think I just talked myself out of making a decision there.
I found myself enjoying the repartee between the siblings as it reminded me of my sister and I. (Surprised I have a sister?) That amazing honesty you can have with someone that has an edge of humour time while also seeing each other crystal clear. The idea of a magic, beaded, gypsy curtain being able to keep children at bay is a romantic idea but I am not sure it would work. I am willing to give it a try though. I cannot imagine her mother having a position within a college. Looking back on it though, some of my lecturers were pretty flaky, especially the philosophy ones.
As the chapter came to a close I really liked the imagery of the clicking of the keys being the music of her life. Being a greater part of her than even the song.
A Note from Adele
I have received a few email expressing delight in my accent, I am glad I can entertain you with my Australianness.
I love getting emails, it brightens my day and provides a much needed kick in the rear end to keep going when I have had a long work day. Thanks Jenni.
The podcast will be up after I have posted three chapters. I have talked one of my American friends into reading a Sarah Dessen book, specifically This Lullaby and she’ll be joining me via a Skype audio recorded session. If you’d like to contribute to the podcast, record your observations about one of the chapters or your feelings about the blog/podcast as a mp3/wav file and I will add it to the podcast. It’s easy to do if you have a mic as you can download Audacity for free off the internet.