Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Charlotte Lucas - Your Perfect Year

For hyper-particular publishing heir Jonathan Grief, the day starts like any other—with a strict morning fitness regimen that’ll keep his divorced, easily irritated, cynical, forty-two-year-old self in absolutely flawless physical condition. But all it takes to put a crimp in his routine is one small annoyance. Someone has left a leather-bound day planner with the handwritten title Your Perfect Year in his spot on his mountain bike at his fitness course! Determined to discover its owner, Jonathan opens the calendar to find that someone known only as “H.” has filled it in with suggestions, tasks, and affirmative actions for each day. The more he devotes himself to locating the elusive H., the deeper Jonathan is drawn into someone else’s rich and generous narrative—and into an attitude adjustment he desperately needs. He may have ended up with a perfect year by accident, but it seems fate has set Jonathan on a path toward healing, feeling, and maybe even loving again…if only he can meet the stranger who’s changing his life one day at a time.

Comment: I got interested in this book by impulse after reading one sentence in someone's review. Somehow that made me curious enough to want to try it and now, after almost two years I finally got to read it.

I this book we meet two main characters quite different in terms of personality and attitude towards life. Jonathan wants everything controlled and follows his routines every day. He works at a publishing house and seems to have a rather sterile living, even more so since his wife left him and his father has moved to a elderly home after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. On the other hand, Hannah is a woman determined to succeed and eager to savor life. She and her best friend Lisa have recently opened a daycare/kindergarten type of business and it has proved to be quite a hit. However, she does wish her boyfriend Simon showed more enthusiasm for her success but she understands his lack of a job might make things seem unbalanced between them. Hannah and Jonathan never met but a life planner Hannah writes to Simon ends up being found by Jonathan and he feels like trying the suggestions in it. Could it be that these two different people might one day meet and have something in common?

I went into this book expecting a certain type of story and what made me think like this was that one sentence I've read in a review. At the same time, I was hoping the plot would go into a certain path but as the story moved along I could see neither expectation was as black and white as I imagined it might be by that one sentence.

This book was written by a German author and translated into english, whose version I've read. Perhaps some details might seem like a translation but for the most part, having read so many books in english, I don't think it was that obvious this would have been so. The setting is in Hamburg, a city in north Germany, and some elements do allow the reader to focus on that but I wouldn't go as far as to say this is a book written by an obvious German author. Still, it was refreshing to read about spots/places in a very different city from the usual books I read.

The book is centered on two main characters. Jonathan finds a planner on his bike on the first day of the new year one morning and the notebook is full of plans and suggestions for the year, written by someone who signed things as "H." Jonathan has a very predictable and lonely life and at first I thought the core of this book would be about his (possible) form of autism and how he would face the world. It turns out it wasn't so, he is just someone extremely focused on his routines and his proper way of behaving. I suppose many might find him obnoxious and annoying but to me he had a huge potential to evolve and I was curious about his actions.

Hannah is the other main character and I liked her quite a lot, she was driven and motivated and bubbly, one of those people who seems to find positive things everywhere. Therefore, quite a contrast to Jonathan and I imagined several opposites attract scenarios. However, she is in a relationship when the story begins, although we get to see things from her perspective a few months earlier in relation to Jonathan's, in terms of timeline. I wondered how things would play out...

I won't spoiler anything but let me say I don't think this is a romance. I'd say this is woman's fiction with romantic elements...in fact, to me, this ends in a HFN and not a HEA but even though anyone can see things differently and focus on specific scenes - thus, looking at this through eyes of romance - I don't think many would disagree this book wasn't focused on romance. There are several other themes in play here and they felt like - good or bad - content to give us a better idea of the character's personalities.

Something I can't help but think of in a more or less negative view is the amount of pages dedicated to set up the plot and the characters' motivations. Practically half the book is preparing things, explaining everything... when the main characters really have to act and react to external issues, more than half the book had gone and I feel the author spent way too many pages on something that could have been edited. This means, not enough time was left to enjoy the main characters' getting closer and when they do meet at last, things happened so quickly it felt unsatisfactory. That's why - I suppose - the story had to end on a HFN, because they weren't yet emotionally ready to be something more than cautious friends, if that.

Of course this isn't a problem and readers can imagine any possible scenario they want, but for those hoping to love a romance story here, I don't thin this will be quite the best choice. I did like the amount of issues tackled by the author and some provided emotions I didn't expect to find here (the cover does suggest something cute, light...) but this gave the book a certain dramatic flavor which wasn't completely compensated with lighter moments. Or, perhaps, if the story had been told in a different perspective or if the timeline had started in a different moment things might feel better.

All in all, this wasn't a bad story, it was entertaining, it had elements that made me want to keep reading but I admit I thought the main subjects wouldn't be the ones used. I liked the main characters but I still wonder to myself if they were shown to be the couple readers might have wanted to see.

Grade: 7/10

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