It is my pleasure to be part of the Blog Tour for Emma Rathbone's "Losing It" today! Thanks so much to @HQStories for inviting me to join in!
This book is about just that - losing "it". "It" is 26 year old Julia Greenfield's virginity. Somehow, she has made it through life so far without losing it, even having been to college and hung out at parties; she's had boyfriends and she's tried to take things to that final stage on several occasions, but it just doesn't seem to be that easy. And now she is totally fixated about "losing it". This is a woman obsessed and a woman on a mission.
To inject a bit of excitement and attempt to shake up her stalled life, she decides to go to North Carolina and spend the summer with her 58 year old aunt Vivienne. Whilst there, she unearths a shocking secret - that's it, you've guessed it; she discovers Vivienne is also a virgin! Horrified Julia is desperate to find out how and why this is, mainly so she can make sure she avoids the same "terrible" fate. Then there follows an entertaining story of Julia's attempts not just to lose her own virginity, but to help her aunt lose hers as well!
From the moment we meet Julia, all the information, anecdotes and descriptions of friendships are built around her still intact virginity. She frequently reminisces about the unfairness of her friends getting there before she has.
"Chelsea's face was folded and smug, like she was in possession of a secret I couldn't possibly fathom and she had to crowd around it and protect it."
She describes her obsessive need to "lose it" as a kind of helpless desperation, as an anger and a strain -one of several "strains of being an adult" she comes to realise over the course of the summer. Her almost mathematical analysis of dates, attraction and body language are gently humorous as the irony of her actions felt by the reader. Although I feel we are laughing alongside her empathetically rather than at her and I liked that Rathbone does not resort to slapstick cheap cliched scenes to engage and entertain her readers.
Julia doesn't have a lot else going for her really. She seems to have lost her drive, ambition and direction since leaving college. She doesn't enjoy her job and states that soon she will go back home to her apartment, "microwave a dinner that would burn the top of my mouth, then float facedown in the internet for a while before going to bed even though I wasn't tired." She's made the wrong choice about where to live as she didn't realise there were specific neighbourhoods young people were supposed to live. She's been duped by the website blurb and taken a flat in the "charming downtown of a sub-city called Arlington" which actually turns out to be in an "unworkable mile of overpasses and parking garages." Like her relationships, Julia has just missed the mark and once again gets a little more left behind. Staring out in the world of work and independence hasn't quite worked out as she had expected. I can relate to that!
I liked Julia. I did find her fixation with "losing it" rather obsessive but I think Rathbone has tapped into something that does bother all women - not necessarily concerns with their virginity, but that holy grail of being in a relationship or as "Bridget Jones" would say, a "smug married". However, Julia's obsession is pretty severe:
"My virginity composed about 99 percent of my thought traffic. I concentrated on it - trying to drill it down to its powder, its particle elements, trying to recatergorize it, impose different narratives on why this had happened."
I can see that this could become irritating to some readers and I appreciate I am probably not the desired target audience for this novel. But if you can accept Julia's one track line of thought and push on to the second half of the novel which focuses more on Aunt Vivienne and her back story then you will be rewarded. This thread of the storyline was interesting and Vivienne's character perhaps a bit more complex. Julia's interaction with her Aunt and the journey of their relationship is well observed.
Julia is not a completely vacuous character. She's not bothered about getting a high powered job - interviews and offices are merely a place to meet men and orchestrate situations that might lead to achieving her goal; but sometimes there are moments of poignancy, understanding and insight - particularly regarding her relationship with her Aunt.
Rathbone's writing is gentle. It flows with appropriate dialogue, humour and descriptions for this kind of novel. There are some charming moments and some good use of language. There are some lovely glimpses of characterisation, for example when Julia sees the ancient Caroline asleep in her chair she says:
"She was positioned like a rag doll that had been thrown from across the room and happened to land that way - one hand, resting in her lap, the other dangling down by her side. Her legs were lolling open under her dress. She looked deflated, inanimate."
And then towards the end she writes:
"The rest of our afternoon was like an Impressionist painting - our colours swirling together as we glided out of the basement and out onto the wooden swing, sitting together."
My favourite phrase when one character wryly stated: "I don't sit there and twist myself into a pretzel trying to figure out how it got to be that way."
Rathbone can write and she can tell a good romantic, comedic, coming of age novel for the twenty something generation. There were many echoes of other American authors' voices in these pages and it will easily slip in amongst other chick lit novels that are either set in small towns or focus on boy-meets-girl type plots. It was a little predictable, a little contrived but I liked its fluency and on the whole, the characterisation.
This is kind of "Bridget Jones" meets Austen's "Emma" - a mismatching matchmaker whose desperation, obsession and cringing dates culminate in an easy, light, entertaining and finally heartwarming novel.
My thanks to HQ Stories and Net Galley for an advanced copy of this novel in return for an honest review.
To find out more about "Losing It" and Emma Rathbone on Twitter, search #LosingIt or follow @HQStories and @EmmaRathbone
Author info:Emma Rathbone is the author of the novel . She is the recipient of a Christopher Isherwood Grant in Fiction, and her work can also be seen in the , the , and the . She is also a writer for the upcoming Netflix comedy, G.L.O.W. She lives in Los Angeles.
If you've enjoyed this review then please follow me on Twitter for more recommendations @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk)