Monday, 11 May 2009

A Note in the Margin by Isabelle Rowan

John McCann has been told by his doctor that he needs to have a 'sea change' in his life, if he ever wants to get rid of his migraines. So John decides to take a year out from the rat race to manage a bookstore - Margins. Whilst there, he meets David - a homeless man - who comes in to the store to read the second hand books. John's initial prejudices are eroded away as he comes to know David and he has to question exactly what he wants out of his life and who he wants to share it with.

As mentioned in the preview review :), I found this a little difficult to get into. I didn't settle into the story straight away. However, this is one of those storys that draws you in without you realizing it and I predict this may be one of my future comfort reads. Before you know it (well p52) you are pulled into the world of the Margins book shop and the characters there. (This is where I admit I'm a sucker for stories set in bookshops, lol.)

At the start of the story, John is almost an everyman character, he represents the majority of people and their attitudes to the homeless. However, in coming in to contact with David, John has to deal with things he might otherwise not have had to and also he has to confront a lot of things about himself that he might not have wished to acknowledge.

David is understandably not as easy a character to get to know. We learn about him as John does, and at the end of the story John knows there is still much that he doesn't know about the man he's fallen in love with, but he knows he's got the time to find it all out. Unlike John we have the luxury of being able to see into David's head and hear his thoughts.
Maybe some lessons can be unlearned and survival is more than staying warm?
I love the way Isabelle Rowan develops her characters gradually and with lots of subtle touches.
He didn't open his eyes when Jamie asked him if he was okay and flinched away from Jamie's hand on his hair.
I like that the author took her time in developing the relationship between John and David and didn't rush it. She makes it clear that it's two steps forward and one step (or in some instances two or three steps) back. John and the reader learn that it's not just going to be a case of giving David food and a warm place to stay, the baggage he comes with is more complex than that.

Although there are other characters in the story, notably Jamie the bookshop assistant and Barbara who volunteers at the homeless shelter. This story is very much focused on David and John.

There is lots of other stuff that happens here, but I don't want to go into too much detail and spoil the story. If I had a problem at all it was the point of view shifts. I personally prefer to stick with one character for a large chunk of time. Whereas Isabelle Rowan seems to favour a constantly shifting point of view which is sometimes dizzying.

There's a sense at the end that John and David still have a long way to go, but you also feel that they'll get there. This is only the end of the beginning.

I just want to add that if this is the quality of material that Dreamspinner Press are publishing I will definitely be looking for more from them in the future.


Mary M. said...

OK, I didn't read your review in full, but I couldn't help peeking at the beginning and end, and I just wanted to say that while Dreamspinner has its misses, like every publisher, it has some very good material. I would enthusiastically recommend the excellent CAUGHT RUNNING by Madeline Urban and Abigail Roux. Very sweet and tender romance, beautifully developped and entertaining, one of my all-time M/M favorites. I don't think I've ever met anyone who didn't enjoy it :). Also by the same authors, but in a very, very different genre (dark cop mystery, gritty and raw), CUT & RUN was also a fantastic and gripping read.

Oh, and one thing I will say for DS is that they always have nice covers and they look great in paperback :).

Jane Seville said...

Hi Lesley, I write for Dreamspinner and I've come away with a very favorable impression of their commitment to putting out good quality books. They're not all on a par with "Margin," but I'm seeing more and more good, engaging writing as more releases are published. I also highly recommend "Tigers and Devils" by Sean Kennedy. I've had a lot of readers write to me and say that they're starting to view Dreamspinner as a go-to publisher for good books that aren't just sexsexsex all the time. Cheers!