31/05/2015

Crossed Wires (by Rosy Thornton)


It’s several years since I first came across Rosy Thornton, when I was sent one of her books to review. I liked it, and put a few more of her novels on my wishlist; I read a couple more and liked them very much. I was then given this particular one a couple of years ago but it’s been sitting on my to-be-read shelf all that time, until I decided to read it last week.

‘Crossed Wires’ is a light and gentle character-based story featuring two main people. Mina, who’s in her twenties, works in an auto insurance call centre in Sheffield. Peter, who’s around forty, is a lecturer in Cambridge. Both are single parents - Mina to a shy ten-year-old bookworm called Sal; Peter to identical nine-year-old twins called Kim and Cassie. But that’s about all they have in common.

They ‘meet’ by phone, when Peter calls to report a car problem. In explaining the circumstances of his accident, Mina chats a bit more than she would normally, liking the sound of his voice. That would have been the end of it, except that he manages to have another prang not long afterwards, and deliberately asks to speak to Mina as she was so helpful the first time. Then when he ends the call somewhat abruptly, she looks up his file on record and discovers something that makes her go against official guidelines and call him at home outside her work hours…

The story is told alternately from Mina’s and Peter’s point of view, charting their lives as they struggle with day-to-day problems. Mina worries that Sal is so shy, Peter worries that his twins are too close to each other. Mina’s sister causes her a great deal of stress; Peter spends time trying to help his research student, who is struggling financially, without making it too obvious that he’s helping her funds.

I found most of the characters likeable, including the token gay couple (so many modern books have them) who are Peter’s best friends, Jeremy and Martin, although they were a bit caricatured. I thought the three girls were well-drawn and believable, even if a few of the minor characters seemed flat and somewhat stereotyped.

The writing is good, the style enjoyable, although it's not going to appeal to those who like a lot of plot or fast action. Instead it portrays the different people and circumstances, offering a peep into the lives of people we might otherwise know nothing about.

Peter and Mina find that despite very different circumstances in life, they think in the same kind of way, and start to enjoy their phone conversations - which turn into a weekly event - but I was beginning to wonder if they would ever meet…

There’s some drama in the middle of the book, and various crises; indeed I found it quite hard to put down during the latter half. I enjoyed the day-to-day lives of the two families, on the whole, but felt that one or two threads weren’t really resolved at the end even though the conclusion is hopeful and mostly satisfying.

'Crossed Wires' is no longer in print, and second-hand paperback editions can be quite expensive, but it's also available in electronic form for the Kindle.

Review by copyright 2015 Sue's Book Reviews

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