Usually books by Cecelia Ahern bewitch me but The Year I Met You didn’t live up to the magic of PS I Love You or Thanks for the Memories. Perhaps it was the fact the main character, Jasmine, wasn’t very charming unlike her previous heroines and it deals with serious topics.
Jasmine has been put on gardening leave. Technically she has been fired from her job but in order to stop competitors from snapping her up, she has to wait out one year before she can start a new job. Luckily she is still paid while she waits out the year. This was the first time I came across the phrase and what it referred to. Who says fiction doesn’t impart knowledge? Because so far her job has been her life, Jasmine is clueless as to what to do with all her spare time.
Apart from her job, there’s one person she has vowed to protect all her life: her younger sister who has Down Syndrome. As a result when she realises her neighbour across the road is a shock-jock who once belittled people with her sister’s condition, he becomes an unwitting antagonist subject to the prejudices of her blind judgement. As the days go by and the social barrier she put up against her neighbours begins to crumble, Jasmine realises she may have not known the full story about Matt, who has himself has been put on gardening leave after his controversial chat show went too far on-air.
Jasmine has to contend with a returning adopted cousin whose memories of their childhood do not mirror her own and is also approached for a job by a handsome headhunter with whom she develops a budding but promising romance. If anything, The Year I Met You is about judgement and how appearances can often be deceiving.
I bet you have heard of the saying don’t judge a book by its cover but sometimes in the cases of authors like Cecilia Ahern, it pays off to be seduced by cover art. Armed with the knowledge that it was written by the best-selling author of PS, I Love You (which is an awesome chick flick tearjerker btw), the salmon pink, vermillion and peach yellow cover of Thanks for the Memories (also the title of a catchy Fallout Boy song) with a bottom border of white hearts captivated me despite screaming ‘fluff’.
The back cover blurb persuades you thus:
How can you know someone you’ve never met?
Joyce Conway remembers things she shouldn’t. She knows about tiny cobbled streets in Paris, which she has never visited. And every night she dreams about an unknown little girl with blonde hair.
Justin Hitchcock is divorced, lonely and restless. He arrives in Dublin to give a lecture on art and meets an attractive doctor, who persuades him to donate blood. It’s the first thing to come straight from his heart in a long time.
When Joyce leaves hospital after a terrible accident, with her life and her marriage in pieces, she moves back in with her elderly father. All the while, a strong sense of déjà vu is overwhelming her and she can’t figure out why …
Naturally you’re hooked – we’re all suckers for unknown phenomenons that cannot be explained although some of us are a little less communicative than others about it. In my opinion, stories by Cecilia Ahern seems like Disney distilled into content for adult women. Still, it’s a great formula for success as demonstrated by her penchant for successively making it into bestseller lists.
Justin, on the other hand, can be a bit of a pain to figure out but you realise he’s not as selfish as he is made to look. The support and reunion orchestrated by the friends and families of the main characters is what infuses the book with that grown-up ‘magic’ and combined sense of indecision and spontaneous adventure.
The near misses experienced due to the idiosyncrasies of Justin and Joyce manages the right balance of frustrating the reader without making it exasperating. Three of the characters definitely stand out and Joyce’s Irish father who ultimately gets Justin to think straight is a highlight as you realise how much the old man cares for Joyce while she seems to take him for granted. But given the emotional turbulences she was subject to, it excuses her a little because her trauma was a deep one.
The only place I have recalled a similar storyline was in an episode of Neighbours when Rachel felt a connection with the donor who received the heart of her partner, Scotty, after he fell from a roof and later died from an aneurysm. Although other soap operas could have done this to death and I have no idea because I don’t watch them. That storyline didn’t work out quite as predictably as Thanks for the Memories. With this, you will get the icing on the cake you want when you read these types of stories.