Monday, January 04, 2021

The Idea of You by Robinne Lee

A cover of The Idea of You with a face of woman with large tinted glasses
The Idea of You
 drew me in with the premise of a reverse age gap trope with having an older heroine and a younger hero. 

I basically devoured it in one day – I started with a few chapters on Saturday and couldn't stop reading on Sunday and I was going to give it 5 stars up until about 50 pages before the end when I started suspecting that it wouldn't have a happy ending. 

Which it didn't. And it is such a shame, because otherwise it is such an excellently written story, full of emotion, and the author really makes these two characters work. 

I love the age gap trope, but even in older-man-younger-woman version it is a hit-and-miss to find a story that really works out emotionally and shows the compatibility between the characters, much less in the reverse case of older-woman-younger-man, which there are also fewer books about. 

But Robinne Lee, despite the age difference, establishes the connection between her protagonists and makes us see the things they have in common that make them fall in love with each other. And then she ruins it.

What grates is that throughout the book the author pontificates on the invisibility of women above a certain age, with them and their work being underappreciated and undervalued, and emphasises the benefits of knowing oneself that aging brings. 

And all of that is great and necessary to be pointed out more often in our day and time, be it in everyday life or fiction, because it is the truth: women of certain age do not stop living and mattering. 

However, as nice and fine as the author putting all these notions in the story is, it is completely negated by the unhappy ending, which slams the point straight back into the stereotype: that an older woman can only find happiness within conforming to the role of a mother, putting her child and other people first, with perhaps a bit of a career on the side, but she most certainly cannot find happiness in an unconventional relationship, or, god forbid, define herself and her happiness on her own terms.

And that is highly ironic, considering that earlier in the book  the author explicitly points out the hypocrisy of people not batting an eye at all the 40-and-older-something men dating and marrying 20-somethings, but condemning a woman for it. Yet, Robinne Lee does the same to her own character in the end. 

So, I am mad at this book. It could have been everything, but with that ending it is a huge disappointment. 

All in the name of being realistic, I suppose. But, guess what? A 20-year-old boy band star falling in love with a twice-as-old, even if (or even more so if) sophisticated, art-gallery owner, is in itself unrealistic. It is all fantasy. That is why we have fiction. F*ck realistic. 

And now I need to find – which is so hard to do – another one with a similar premise but an actual happy ending to make myself feel better. See, that is how my TBR grows. BTW, recommendations welcome. ;)

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