The first round of the Shortathon happened between  February 18th – 24th, 2019.

This readathon did not have any challenges, but they did do Twitter sprints. The readathon’s rule was reading books that are 300 pages and under. (The two books I read end up having under 300 pages each when you divide the sum of their pages!)

Books read:
Dear Rosie Hughes by Melanie Hudson
Love, Unscripted by Owen Nicholls (I have received this free copy from the Headline Publishing Group in exchange for an honest and unbiased review).

I am so glad I decided to read these books together during the same readathon. While the plots have nothing in common, they tend to overlap in certain aspects. Both books deal with people trying to fix each other, sibling loss and a journey of self-discovery (aided by bucket lists the characters have made in the past). In both books, one of the main characters compares their life to the ideal, fictionalized versions of it, either in books or movies. Now, one might be put off by the possible idea of bovarism still being a recurring theme in women’s fiction, but let me assure you, this is not the case. The comparisons are being done with gusto, either in relation to cinematographic masterpieces or by dissecting the making of romantic fiction and what it brings to the table – both for the reader and the author.

Love, Unscripted by Owen Nicholls

Owen Nicholls is a screenwriter and his first screenplay – a biopic of the filmmakers Powell and Pressburger – is currently under option to Bedlam Productions, the BAFTA and Academy Award-winning producers of The King’s Speech.
You can certainly tell this from the book – it practically bursts with references to famous movies, and while I can appreciate him mentioning iconic ones such as Rear Window or Vertigo, one can’t help but giggle upon stumbling on a discreet description of Gambit – the underdog of Colin Firth movies, starring Alan Rickman and Cameron Diaz of all things (and one of my favourite movies, partly due to the lengthy Colin screen time). An honorable mention (and what got me hooked) was the main character – Nick – mentioning his fondness for the movie In Search of a Midnight Kiss – one of the most underrated modern indie gems, and a cheeky foreshadowing of Nick and Ellie’s relationship. At the beginning I wasn’t very fond of the tone of the book – Nick lives very much in his head and will, without meaning to, bring the word pathos to the immediate present, which makes Ellie the manic pixie dream that has to come to the rescue. However the book does address this trope which somewhat salvages the situation – and it gets away with it, given the circumstances in which we find our two heroes. I am trying not to spoil this, as it is a very good book – the characters feel real, and had it come out in the noughties, someone would be making Ellie a fake Myspace page (with screencaps from Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist). I did feel that Nick’s writing was a bit too on the nose for a book constantly referencing movies in order to frame its story. His muse might have been ravishing, yet his convey of this was pitiable at best – but justified in his search for resolution, and his script-like mental perspective. There are no happy ending expectations to the story – you’re simply allowing it to unravel as you patiently wait for it (and its protagonists) to find the way. It is a story of loss and life, making sense of the cards we’ve been dealt, and gaining a different perspective.

The book comes out in hardback, audio and eBook on the 22nd of August 2019.

Dear Rosie Hughes by Melanie Hudson

I had initially picked this book up for the Fairytaleathon, but upon diving into the story, I set it aside and moved it to the Shortathon. It was the February book at the Impulse Book Club organized by Harper Impulse, and I get why. The two main characters do seem to have a delightful competition of dishing out self-deprecating inside jokes. However at times, more serious matters are being discussed, and the cold atmosphere of the war – which is where Rosie spends her days – send a cold shower down your spine, to wash out those warm, fuzzy, friendship feelings you get from their letters. Because the book is made up from letters sent between Rosie and her people at home – but mainly her best friend, Aggie. There is a special quality of distance, shared by circumstances where death is imminent (such as war), that makes people be almost brutally honest. While caring and respectful of boundaries, the two best friends do not beat around the bush too much (except when Rosie has to deal with women’s hygiene in her group of mainly male colleagues). When the need for direct action arises, they will absolutely say it straight to the other and admit their shortcomings. It does give a Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants vibe (and Rosie actually gets some pants via post from her mother), which makes sense, given that the core of the book centers on their friendship and how it has shaped them. You know my policy of trying not to spoil any books, so I won’t go into too much detail, but this book has it all – the childhood reminiscing (recalled so beautifully it made me dig up my old photos), the adulthood ass-covering you can only get from a stranger in the girls’ bathroom, and the raw, character-shaping subjects that are undergoing a #konmari makeover by being straightened out, held close for joy, and carefully folded in order to be safely deposited in the heart’s cupboards. Instead of trying to describe the characters without giving too much away, I will leave you with this: if this movie ever makes it to the big screen, I sincerely hope Rosie will be played by Christina Cole, and Aggie by James Corden in drag (now you have to read it).


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