One Day in December
By Josie Silver. (Broadway Books, 392 pages, $16.)
First of all, to enjoy this book, you have to set aside your skepticism and common sense. You have to embrace your inner romantic, and you have to believe, just for a few hours, that love at first sight is a reasonable thing and that we all have a soul mate.
If you can do that, then you will find Josie Silver’s “One Day in December” a sweet, entertaining read. If you can’t, then you will spend a lot of time rolling your eyes.
The main character and narrator, Laurie (not me), makes eye contact with a handsome stranger one afternoon as she boards a bus. He is sitting on a park bench, wearing a peacoat and a scarf and reading a thick hardback book, the epitome of the perfect man. Their eyes meet, the bus pulls away, but by then Laurie is in love. She is certain the handsome stranger feels the same way.
She tells her best friend, Sarah, about him. She spends a lot of time looking for him, to no avail. And then, after she has given up, he shows up — as Sarah’s new boyfriend.
What follows is a touching story about a woman trying to do the right thing, trying to be a true friend and get over a man she loves even as he becomes a huge part of her life. “One Day in December” follows the three characters for 10 years, and while it has a happy ending for all, the book isn’t just empty romance fiction: The fully formed characters grow and change, and over time they each learn they have to leave their comfort zone — and one another — in order to grow up.
If you’re heading out of town anytime over the holidays, this would be the perfect airplane read.
The Rain Watcher
By Tatiana de Rosnay. (St. Martin’s Press, 240 pages, $27.99.)
Paris is in chaos. Relentless rain is pushing the Seine out of its banks and into homes, museums and train stations. Photographer Linden Malegarde would know how to deal with this if he was on assignment.
But Linden isn’t in Paris for work. He’s here to mark his parents’ wedding anniversary and get through the weekend without a scene. All that changes when his father suffers a stroke. Now Linden has to lead his fractious family through their crisis as the city around them reels. As everything teeters, Linden glimpses the chance of a reconciliation he thought impossible.
Tatiana de Rosnay (“Sarah’s Key,” “The House I Loved”) again mines the past to deliver a powerful tale of people caught up in major moments in history. This time she re-imagines Paris’ recent close calls with the raging Seine — what if they’d been worse?
“Paris looks like an obscure and sinister Venice, a drowned metropolis gradually sinking into oblivion, incapable of putting up a fight, yielding to the hurried and lethal violence of its demented river.”
De Rosnay is so good at this storytelling that I wish she had focused on her family/flood narrative. Her decision to intersperse a decades-old mystery adds little but distraction. My advice to readers would be to skip the italics sections and savor the story of her beloved city on the brink.