I had a sleepless night after reading Love and Other Puzzles by Kimberley Allsopp. Not because of the book itself… I just had a heap of stuff on my mind; but it means it got the full post-reading Deborah over-thinking / over-analysis treatment because my mind wouldn’t shut down. (So I apologise for that in advance!)
I very much enjoyed this debut novel by Allsopp. It’s probably a little different than my usual reading fare, which is probably why I didn’t receive a print copy for review. And though Rory is a couple of decades (at least two, maybe three) younger than me, I could kinda relate to the messiness of her life and the denial in which she’s wrapped herself… assuming everything will work out and she’s on the right track.
Love and Other Puzzles
by Kimberley Allsopp
Published by HarperCollins
Genres: Humour, Women's Fiction
Rory's life is perfectly predictable, ordered and on track - just the way she likes it. She walks her 12,000 steps a day, writes her to-do list and each night she prepares her breakfast chia pods and lays out her clothes for the next day. She's doing everything right. So why does everything feel so wrong?
Deep down, she knows her life and career - not to mention her relationship - are going nowhere, and so Rory, in a moment of desperation, takes an uncharacteristic step: letting the clues of The New York Times crossword puzzle dictate all her decisions for a week. Just for a week, she reasons. Just to shake things up a bit. What's the worst that could happen?
I read an early copy of this book electronically so the layout of the final version may have changed but I did find the writing a bit dense at times. I’m not sure if more whitespace or paragraphs would have helped but I found myself rushing with my reading and given that I’m a fast reader, that’s saying something!
Rory’s internal dialogue – as well as the conversations with her bestie Kitt, boss Dave and a guy called Harry – reminded me of The Gilmore Girls. (And I LOVE the dialogue in that show, as well as The Marvellous Mrs Maisel – which has the same writer/creator.)
I could very much relate to the writing; I write similarly, where I start talking about something and get slightly sidetracked with an anecdote before (hopefully) coming back to the original point. So Allsopp’s writing is sassy and prose clever but it does sometimes get a bit laden down with words. Lots of words. Again, (weirdly) I related (to) and appreciated this but found its verboseness a little challenging at times.
Because I had time to overthink the book after finishing it I found myself picking at other things… some coincidences for example and the way everything is perfectly wrapped up in the end. Having said that, I’m aware it’s meant to mirror a romcom and I did want a happy ending but it was a bit like too many things going right after going wrong. Given Rory’s propensity to daydream and addiction to romcoms I actually wondered if the romance thing might mostly be in her imagination and the stuff of witty repartee rather than the good old love at first sight kinda thing. (And I might have enjoyed that option.)
My overthinking meant I (again) pondered the discussion Rory has with her mother about her father and I’m not sure it was needed (as it felt like an afterthought). I did appreciate that it gave us some insight into Rory’s character and perhaps would have liked a little more reference to that. Her mother dismisses the similarities but much of the novel is spent on Rory’s rigid nature and inflexibility so some consideration as to whether it’s a result of a very-absent and eccentric mother and unusual home life or something more physiological interested me.
I should mention how much I loved the pop culture / romcom references and ‘got’ all of them. Thankfully there weren’t too many featuring YA shows on Netflix or the like so I could very much relate to everything including Four Weddings and a Funeral, When Harry Met Sally, Serendipity and You’ve Got Mail.
This is a very cleverly written and entertaining debut by Allsopp. The characters are all likeable and engaging and Rory in particular is disarmingly honest. In many ways my (later) overanalysis of the ending was unwarranted but guess it’s also because the book stayed with me after I’d shut down my iPad. (Or perhaps I was jealous… that Rory’s life seems to be coming together while mine….. #notsomuch!)
Love and Other Puzzles by Kimberley Allsopp will be published on 2 February 2022 by Harper Collins Australia.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review.