passion rating: warm
The hero of Ms. Marvelle's latest is in the very first chapter in the book, crashed into by an omnibus on a busy New York street. When he wakes, he's an amnesiac, unable to remember anything about himself or his life. He can remember bits and pieces from what turns out to be his favorite book as a child, Robinson Crusoe, and takes the name of Defoe's protagonist as his own. Ms. Marvelle's Robinson's fate is joined, not to a man named for a day of the week, but with a woman named for a state: a Mrs. Georgia Wilder. I recall struggling to finish — at age 15 - Mr. Defoe's novel. Forever and a Day wasn't quite as taxing, but it, too, was a trial to read.
The book is divided into three sections and ends with an epilogue; all three core components were wearisome in different ways. The first part of the tale is downright baffling. As the novel begins, Georgia is hurrying home to her tenement in Five Points when she spots a fine looking gent walking her way. He's tall, dark-haired, handsome, and clearly very wealthy. She inadvertently stumbles into him and he immediately, politely, propositions her. Georgia, despite finding him quite the dish, declines. Their initial encounter is somewhat incomprehensible. He's quite insistent that she join him at his hotel for coffee and I hadn't any idea why. Ms. Marvelle doesn't describe Georgia in any detail other than to point out she's Irish, red-headed, and poor. I wondered what it was about her that so entranced this unnamed British toff. Then, suddenly and melodramatically, Georgia's purse is nicked by a pickpocket; her Brit - as she thinks of him - takes off after the thief, and while in pursuit, is run over by a bus. Georgia has him taken to a hospital - she feels responsible for his injury - where for nine days, he lies in a coma. When he wakes, he recalls nothing of his life before that moment. No one has claimed him and, unable to think of a better alternative, Georgia takes him home with her.
Within a day and a half of living with Georgia - and after having crude sex with her in the public hallway of her apartment building - Robinson, as he and Georgia have come to call him, is in love. He's not just in love, he's sure that nothing in life has ever been or could ever be as important to him as being with this woman he's just met while he’s suffering from a traumatic brain injury. Georgia, for her part, falls in love as well, but she's convinced such a dazzling, well-heeled, kindhearted, upper-class gentleman will, once he regains his memory and his life, leave the likes of her behind. Their few days together, supplemented with heaps of history about 1830s New York, comprises the first part of this book. At its end, Robinson has indeed reclaimed his memory, his father has come to claim him, and in a hurried and awkward ending, all parties involved must make painful choices.
click here to read the rest of the review