My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A lover told me to read this. A lover just like Anne. Sophisticated. Unattainable. Impossibly beautiful. I desisted for a while. Months. Read it, she said. “Read it. You’re all over it.” Now I have read it and I understand why this book found its way to me. It is me and it is not. I see frames of my younger self here: impulsive, irrational, blindly passionate. This isn’t the best book out there but it’s a personal one. And to women who love other women; women who are always looking for narratives of their own experience (regardless of how many they’ve read), it is an important one.
First love is sweet, mournful, and unforgettable. Sylvia Brownrigg captures the essence of this seemingly with little effort. Yet, her eloquent turn of phrase, observing the whimsical peculiarities of two lovers in love, and the tenderness with which she unfolds this story are all commendable. Two women meet at university. One a decade older than the other. The attraction is undeniable. The chemistry, explosive. Their love, ultimately undestined. And yet – even though you know how it will end – as most gay love stories do, with a healthy dose of straightness – you cannot turn your cheek to Sylvia Brownrigg. She politely asks for your attention. I ventured mine, unstintingly.
She was gentle with me. I have read enough coming-of-age, coming out, coming together, women-in-love stories, to be superlatively jaded. Somehow, the author finds my soft spots. Somehow she ferrets out my vulnerabilities as a reader. And she is not unkind. Her ministrations are ever so slightly hesitant but once they are out there, she is charismatic, engaging, and bold. The writing takes on a youthful but intelligent quality. The chapters are short and smartly edited. No endless descriptions, no long-windedness, no indulgences. You fall in step with the characters – you feel the desire for seductive, feline Anne. You feel protective and determined for young Flannery as she comes into her own, braving the landscape of first love, first lovemaking, and first heartache.
I was wary, I have to admit. “This is going to be some adolescent, Judy Blume sort of silliness,” I reprimanded myself as I flew past the pages. And in some ways it was but in so many other ways it was not. She writes with confidence but not cockiness. There’s no arrogance to her style or substance. I appreciate that underrated quality. There is a sort of… diffidence, almost. And that is Flannery for you. So, in some ways, this is very much Flannery’s story. This book is very much Flannery herself.
Yes, Sylvia Brownrigg got me. Despite myself, she caught me. Her words, deceptively simplistic, ensnared me in a net of unbroken weaving. The author has this uncanny ability to peer into the hearts and minds of others with great depth and tenderness.
Pages For You is a typical story told with a unique non-typicalness. No surprises here – there’s nothing you haven’t seen or heard before, except for a fresh new voice. Sometimes that is what we need. Not necessarily new stories, but new ways to tell the old. If you know of a young woman on the threshold of first love, or impossible love, or even a woman falling in love with another woman – give her this book.