All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Crossing Paths – Dianne Blacklock

on September 17, 2011

Jo Liddell is a journalist for a Sydney newspaper where she writes a column entitled Bitch which is basically exactly that about a different topic each week. Jo longs for a chance at serious journalism though, like the sort of stories her married lover Lachlan gets to cover. More times than she can count, Jo has done the hard yards researching something to write a meaty story only for her boss to say that Lachlan or another reporter is going to be covering that issue and she should turn her research over to them.

Jo had a difficult childhood – her father walked out by the time she was four years old, leaving her mother, who was only in her early 20s to cope with two young children. Her mother preferred to go out and party and find new boyfriends and Jo mostly raised herself and her younger sister Belle, always making sure there were Christmas presents and enough money to get by. Jo also had interruptions to her degree as she had to take care of Belle and make sure that she was set up so it took her longer than anticipated to begin climbing her career ladder. With Belle now happily married and a mother of three, Jo has finally begun to settle herself, buying her own apartment. She has no interest in settling down with a man though, as in her experience, all men result in disappointment. Best to keep with ones that can’t disappoint you as they’re not really yours – married men. Jo has no interest in wanting them to leave their wives, her relationships are a purely physical thing.

Then she meets Joe Bannister when the two are trapped in an elevator. Joe, in contrast to Jo, had a lovely childhood and upbringing. His father was a foreign correspondent and often away but his mother raised him and his three sisters and one brother to be closeknit and family-oriented. Joe himself is also a foreign correspondent and is returning home because his father is seriously ill. Their mother passed on years ago and Joe has put his career aside to spend time with his family which comes first. When he meets Jo he is immediately taken with her, even though she’s quite prickly and hard to get to know. Joe is persistent though, working hard to batter through Jo’s defences and wear her down.

Just when Jo thinks that maybe after all these years she’s been wrong and she does deserve some happiness and has found it, it falls apart. She is utterly devastated and it only seems to reinforce what she has really felt all along. But it also gives her a kind of kickstart to really go after what she wants in life and not just sit around trying to wait for it to happen.

I read a couple of Dianne Blacklock novels quite a few years ago when I was still in university and grabbed this one on a whim off the shelf from my local library. It’s quite a big book – I read the large paperback version and it came in close to 500p but it was an easy read, I churned through it in I think, 2 afternoons. However I do feel that it was unnecessarily long and probably could’ve benefited from some editing without any detriment to the story.

What I did enjoy were the characters. Jo was flawed in a way that main characters in women’s fiction aren’t often flawed, given that she was having (not for the first time) an affair with a married man. This is never a favourite sort of story line of mine but I have to admire the way it was done in this novel as I really feel that Blacklock certainly handled several things differently, namely why Jo tended to have relationships with married men and also the way that Lachlan’s wife and Jo interacted. In fact I think the scene between those two women was probably one of my favourites, if not my actual favourite in the whole book. It was just such a breath of fresh air to see such a grown up, mature scene that did what nothing else could probably have done: opened Jo’s eyes to exactly what she was doing.

There were times when I couldn’t see exactly why Joe would be interested in Jo, given how prickly she was towards him (and often downright rude) but he just kept hanging in there. He was likable, almost too good to be true but I thought his relationships with his family were excellent and another high point of the novel, contrasting nicely with Jo’s relationship with her mother. Although Jo’s mother was a bit of a cliche, she was a believable one because I have known women just like her in varying degrees who value themselves above motherhood and would sacrifice their relationship with their children for any relationship with a man. It was no wonder Jo had some serious commitment issues. I did expect a bit more resolution in their relationship either way by the end of the novel but I know that in real life things are rarely that black and white.

Crossing Paths was one of those lazy ‘summer reads’ that I feel is ideal for a day beside a pool or at the beach – it’s a big fat book with enough story to keep you interested for the day and you can get up and leave it at any stage and come back and not feel like you’ve lost your place or missed anything. For me it had the added bonus of being set in Sydney with frequent journeys to the Blue Mountains, another of my favourite spots!

7/10

Book #150 (yay!) of 2011


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