Reviews

Charlotte Street by Danny Wallace (and why I want to be British)

I’m an introvert. Shocking? Not really. I did share my Myers-Briggs results. Albert Einstein and I are both INTP. Coincidence? No. However, I’m also mostly American. Those two things don’t go together; it’s like admitting you want to be unpopular. In America, introversion is something to be corrected. As I work in a quasi-serious research library and archive (quasi because it ain’t exactly medical research, but I can help you understand the finer points of orchid micropropagation), I spend part of my time helping others, giving tours, hosting book clubs, and constantly telling people no. No, you can’t go in the archive, no, you can’t look at the rare book under the skylight, and yes, you really must wear gloves. And no, I don’t care that you used to casually stroll through the archive before I was born (people get surprisingly rude). Thus, I work as an extrovert.

None of that is really important and it’s not the point of my story. Recently, my boss (whom I otherwise adore) discussed switching our library service format to a more customer service friendly format – you know, “like a Gap”. With that statement, a small part of me died inside. I hate going to Gap. They follow me around asking if they can help, eyeing me like I’m plotting something nefarious. Or at least it feels that way. I really don’t want to start stalking the unsuspecting library patrons. Picture an Olsen twin sized librarian demonically popping out from behind the shelf, questioning your book browsing ability, “Can I help you read the spine labels?”. If I was Jason Priestley (and no, not that Jason Priestley), I could just say I’m too British. Instead of spending time arguing about how I don’t want to approach people in a retail manner, that it would make them (and me) nervous and uncomfortable, I could blame it on being British. Because Jason finds a girl he likes and they have a moment, then he puts her in a cab without speaking to her because, you guessed it, he’s too British. (and spot on about hope…)

Because the one thing I hate about hope – the one thing I despise about it, that no one ever seems to admit about it – is that suddenly having hope is the easiest route to sudden hopelessness there is.

I was ready to walk past, because that’s what you do in London, and to be honest, I nearly did…but then she nearly dropped the cactus. And the other packages shifted about, and she had to stoop to keep them all up, and for a moment there was something sweet and small and helpless about her.

And then she uttered a few choice words I won’t tell you in case you nan comes round and finds this page.

I asked if I could help. And she smiled at me. This incredible smile. And suddenly I felt all manly and confident, like a handyman who knows just what nail to buy, and now I’m holding her packages and some of her bags…and she’s saying, “Thank you, this is so kind of you,” and then there’s that moment. The glance, the fleeting glimpse of something I mentioned. And it felt like a beginning…I suppose we were just too British to say anything else and then it was, “Thanks,” and that smile again.

She closed the door, and I watched the cab move off, taillights fading into the city, hope trailing and clattering on the ground behind it.

CharlotteStreet

For lack of a more appropriate word, though I don’t know that there actually is a more appropriate word, Charlotte Street is cute. It examines the mind of a modern thirty-something almost-hipster male in pursuit of a mystery girl. I’m not using almost-hipster as an insult (okay, maybe a little), but Jason is just not that likable. He whines about his life, his career prospects, and his ex-girlfriend. Do you want to know a way to drive women away? Do as Jason does. All is not lost though, despite his moral transgressions and his drunken antics, Jason’s quest is actually quite sweet. We all have that random crush on someone we don’t really know, right? (I’m actually serious here, I know it can be hard to tell.)

The only clue he has to finding this stranger: her disposable camera that he accidentally pilfered. In his efforts to find the girl he can’t get out of his mind, he decides to have the pictures processed. Those twelve pictures provide a set of clues, leading him on a year long journey to discover the mystery woman’s identity. It’s funny how life can develop.

So yes, Charlotte Street is cute, but not much more than that. Although given the level of humor in the novel, I am fairly certain Danny Wallace is at least as funny as his novel (possibly more so if Yes Man is any indication). It is clearly destined to be a romantic comedy (and after checking IMDB, it’s in pre-production). Added bonus: you can mentally cast the movie while reading. If you enjoyed Notting Hill or nearly anything written by Nick Hornsby, you’ll like it. It’s a cute, if forgettable British love quest. And who doesn’t love one of those? 3/5.

pizza

Food. Jason has a theory about life. People are the equivalent of pizza. If you’re bland and average, you’re a margherita pizza. Jason, in all his egotistical glory, feels he is a meat feast. Meat feast you are not, Jason. Maybe a Hawaiian? A little fruity with a bit of pig. I would be a Sicilian Zucchini Pizza (just hold the onions, which I hate) because I’m Mediterranean and like vegetables (to be read with a little excitement so it doesn’t sound quite as lame).

1/2

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  • http://lucybirdbooks.wordpress.com Lucybird

    I loved Charlotte Street. There is something quite cute and a little flattering about a guy who can’t quite get up the guts to talk to , my boyfriend took the whole thing a bit too far by hiding for 2 weeks when we first met, bit we ended up together so all’s well that ends well

    • http://www.fourthstreetreview.com Rory O’Connor

      That’s seriously adorable and a fun “how we got together” story. Because it works out in the end, I found the whole journey to be endearing. I can also shamefully admit that the idea of someone pining for me after passing me on the street is incredibly romantic (if only fictionally).

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