“The Open Window” by Eve Francis

I got this book from NetGalley, as you might guess from the fact that it’s not due to come out until 17th August. Mainly, it caught my eye because the blurb mentioned a band called The Asexual Kinks and I was hoping for some asexual representation — as a queer-focused book, it seemed fairly likely.

However, I ended up having quite a mixed response to the book, which is a shame. I’ll go into more detail below, but first I should say that because it’s an ARC, the quotes in this review may not be final.

the open window

Release date: August 17th, 2016

I liked the story itself — it’s an F/F romance between an artist and a musician, and so we get to see their comics and the band and so on. Each of them had a personality and a past and felt real, because although they’re not like anybody I’ve ever met, I sort of get the impression I could meet them one day. The romance, while it progresses reasonably quickly, is based on more than just physicality, because they have a lot of interests and tastes in common, which makes it feel more realistic.

However, I wasn’t a huge fan of how the story was told. The writing in places felt somewhat unpolished, exacerbated by a seriously huge number of typos. Of course it’s an ARC and hopefully those will be fixed, but some of them were completely the wrong word, which seemed like a massive oversight. A lot of the time, the narrative stated the obvious instead of allowing the reader to make any connection between description and events, and it felt overly wordy for what it was. So while the story it was telling was good, it didn’t feel quite finished.

There were some lines I really liked, though –some bits of dialogue that amused me enough to highlight them on my Kindle, particularly observations about life in a band. My brother’s a musician, so I could appreciate these remarks about the modern music industry even if my experience is a bit secondhand. And it was one of two or three books I read yesterday that made a reference to Catcher in the Rye, but this time it was one that I could definitely relate to:

Morgan hated that novel, always wanted to punch Holden in the face.

(There are few books I detest more than Catcher in the Rye, I have to say.)

And a moment of dialogue I loved:

“The other people who rent the space are the kind of art students we hate. The bohemians, I’m going to travel the world on daddy’s money and think comics are for kids type. Please save me from them and their vegan cupcakes. I need you.”
“Aren’t you vegan, Reese?”
“I’m the better kind. Just save me, M. It’s so hipster here it hurts.”

But while there were a few gems, the book definitely felt like it had potential to be more finely tuned than it was, because the witty insights and remarks kept getting lost among what seemed to me like fairly mediocre writing. (Argh, that sounds harsh, I’m sorry.)

I wasn’t entirely sure about the explicit content. I knew there would be some as there was a warning on NetGalley, and I tend to be very hit and miss when it comes to sex scenes. Most of these didn’t really do anything for me, largely due to writing style. (There is nothing sexy about the word “tits” AT ALL.) They’re pretty detailed, so if you’re into that kind of thing they might be more enjoyable, but I’m not only asexual, I’m also really picky about written sex scenes. So. I wasn’t a fan, and there are quite a few of them in the book, which limited my enjoyment.

On the asexual front, though, the drummer of the band is canonically mentioned to be asexual. It doesn’t enter the story at all, but a nod to representation is better than nothing, right? Lots of queer characters here.

I wasn’t wild about Morgan’s interest in pagan and occult things. She kept going on about astrology and there are few things I care less about than star signs and whatnot — they’ve always seemed like a load of nonsense to me, and I couldn’t help rolling my eyes whenever she started analysing her Scorpio traits. Sometimes tarot and the like can be really effective in books (see: The Raven Cycle), but here it didn’t feel meaningful and intense, just a bit silly.

BUT there was a very cute cat that entered near the end of the book, and I’ve been clamouring for more cats in books, so yay?

On the whole, a pretty mixed response. While it was a reasonably cute romance and I enjoyed the creative side of the characters’ personalities, I felt the execution of the ideas was a bit weak, and on the whole, the book didn’t click with me. It’s probably a 2.5* read — I’m probably being over-generous in giving it 3*s, and I definitely debated giving it 2*s, but I’m feeling kind, so you’ll have to assume I’m rounding up.

Rating: ***

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