Author: Tasmina Perry
Headline Fiction RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
With the temperature at 43C (that’s 111.2F) at the weekend, there was nothing for it; Blue Eyes and I shut up the house, turned on the air-con and settled down for a day of reading (if you knew Blue Eyes, you’d know this was a BIG decision for him) so we could escape the heat. Escape I did, with Tasmina Perry’s latest novel, The Proposal, a modern fairytale set in a far cooler New York and London that turned out to be just right for chilling out. It’s the first novel of Perry’s I’ve read and it won’t be the last – I found myself glued to the lounge until it was finished, breaking only for a glass of water and a bowl (maybe more than one) of popcorn (almost a must for an afternoon read).
The proposal is in fact, more than one proposal. First there’s the proposal Amy Carrell, an American dancer based in London, expects from her boyfriend after finding a Tiffany box in his drawer; to her shock, he’s proposing to move to Washington without her and no, he doesn’t want a long-distance relationship. Then there’s the proposal wealthy aristocrat Georgia Hamilton lodges in a magazine – she wants a companion for a mysterious Manhattan adventure, and when she meets Amy in answer to the ad, she proposes that Amy be her companion. In New York, experiencing a glamorous side of the city she’s never seen before, Amy proposes that Georgia teach her about old-school elegance, and, as she comes to know more about Georgia, discovers that there’s a proposal in Georgia’s past that still carries the pleasure and pain of love and betrayal. Along with these proposals of varying types, there are propositions, offers for help and ultimatums … all leading to much-needed closure and growth for both women.
The dual time period story moves easily between past and present London and New York, showing societal shifts from the dying era of debutantes to modern-day women chasing careers (rather than men). Georgia was both a woman of her time (a reluctant debutante) and a woman ahead of her time; expected to marry well and produce children, she chose a career in publishing, which made her a wealthy woman in her own right (had things turned out differently, I think she still would have pursued a career). Her only marriage did not last and she had no children, and as Amy discovers, she’s estranged from her extended family. Georgia has masked the deep and abiding pain of a long-past betrayal with her success and it’s only when she meets Amy that the cracks in the veneer appear. Amy, in contrast, is not from a wealthy background at all – her family is more blue collar than white; she is frustrated by her inability to make a success of dancing (though I loved how in her father’s eyes, she was always a success) and feels demoralised by her wealthy boyfriend’s parents. According to them, she won’t make the right kind of wife or partner for their son, and he (the cad!) does not stick up for her.
The Proposal is an entertaining, light and quick read that quickly hooked me. I found myself sucked into both women’s stories, especially Georgia’s; I found myself caring for each of them and wanting resolution and peace for Georgia, and happiness in love for Amy. The descriptions of debutante life were interesting (in their depiction and in their light social commentary) and vivid; equally vivid, were the descriptions of modern-day New York as Amy and Georgia experienced the city for the first time (Georgia) and through new eyes (Amy). Reading about Serendipity 3 (a NY restaurant famed for its frozen hot chocolate and appearance in one of my favourite movies, Serendipity) and The Frick Collection (a musuem), I felt like I was there, an observer (I’m yet to see this city for myself). Thanks to these descriptions of times past and present, good writing and a charming storyline with two kind-hearted but spirited characters, I really enjoyed this book – it was just right for my mood and for chilling out.
Available from good bookstores and Hachette. This copy was courtesy of Hachette.
Bookish treat: Popcorn … the old standby (but what I’d really love one is one of those frozen hot chocolates).