Book Review: The Look of Love
By: Sarah Jio
Published By: Plume
Publication Date: November 25, 2014
Page Count: 320
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Audience: Adult - Contemporary, Magical Realism
Sarah Jio is one of my favorite writers so when one of her new books hits the shelves, I can't wait to work it into my reading schedule. I had high hopes for this one since I have loved her previous novels. While I enjoyed this one, I found that it was my least favorite of Jio's work. To be fair, following Goodnight June is a tough task.
Jane, the main character, is blessed/cursed with the ability to see love. When a couple who is in love is in her line of sight, her vision blurs and she gets nasty headaches. The power of love is so overwhelming that it causes her to be physically ill. Jane, like any rational person, believes her affliction is a medical condition. Jane must choose between modern medicine and personal conviction. Can she really see love? I enjoyed watching Jane grapple with this issue. I found it empowering that she chose to stick to her gut and not let others sway her opinions about herself.
This novel was different from previous Jio novels because there wasn't much of a historical connection. There is a small one that links Jane with a flower seller in Paris in 1893. The history piece is present during the prologue and then takes a backseat to contemporary times and only appears in brief, passing comments for the remainder of the story. I have come to love the blend of history and contemporary in a Jio novel; I was sad that this novel didn't follow the format of the other novels. I always like to see authors venture in new directions so I can certainly understand Jio's choice. It was just unexpected.
In addition, another difference with this one is that there are lots of characters who drive the plot. Ultimately this is Jane's story, but because she must identify forms of love the novel focuses on a variety of relationships. I found that some of these relationships bothered me. I'm one of those people that strongly believes that there is no excuse for infidelity. If an individual is unhappy in their marriage or relationship then they need to end things before moving on to the next warm body. I am always harder on characters who choose to cheat rather than working through their problems or ending things appropriately. This happens with more than one character in this novel which caused me to have a lot of trouble liking those characters moving forward. This is a personal quirk and probably will not be a problem for other readers.
While I didn't love every character, I found that the ones I did enjoy balanced out my displeasure with the other characters. I also loved that Jio added a layer of magical realism to this one. I'd love to read a Jio novel that combined the magical realism component with the blend of history and contemporary plot points.
One Last Gripe: I didn't like how often the story bounced between the various characters - especially when I had to leave a character I enjoyed to spend time with a character I didn't like as much.
Favorite Thing About This Book: The setting - Seattle will always have a part of my heart. I loved walking with Jane along the city's streets and seeing the market through her eyes. I am now craving a trip to my beloved city.
First Sentence: In the fashionable fifth arrondissement along the river Seine, Eloise stands beside her flower cart watching couples stroll arm in arm.
Favorite Character: Jane
Least Favorite Character: Elaine
Born during a Christmas blizzard, Jane Williams receives a rare gift: the ability to see true love. Jane has emerged from an ailing childhood a lonely, hopeless romantic when, on her twenty-ninth birthday, a mysterious greeting card arrives, specifying that Jane must identify the six types of love before the full moon following her thirtieth birthday, or face grave consequences. When Jane falls for a science writer who doesn’t believe in love, she fears that her fate is sealed. Inspired by the classic song, The Look of Love is utterly enchanting.