06 August, 2013

#BookReview :: 44 Charles Street by Danielle Steel

The plumbing was prone to leaks, the furniture rescued from garage sales. And every square inch was being devotedly restored to its original splendor—even as a relationship fell to pieces. Now Francesca Thayer, newly separated from her lawyer boyfriend Todd, is desperate. The owner of a struggling art gallery, and suddenly the sole mortgage payer on her Greenwich Village townhouse, Francesca does the math and then the unimaginable. She puts out an advertisement for boarders. Soon her house becomes a whole new world.
First comes Eileen, a fresh, pretty L.A. transplant, now a New York City schoolteacher. Then there’s Chris, a young father struggling with a troubled ex-wife and the challenge of parenting a seven-year-old son who visits every other weekend. The final tenant is Marya, a celebrated cookbook author hoping to start a new chapter in her life after the death of her husband. As Francesca’s art gallery begins to find its footing and Todd moves on to another woman, she discovers that her accidental tenants have become the most important people in her life. 
As the roommates bond, and the house fills with the aroma of Marya’s exquisite cuisine, there are shadows as well as light. Naïve Eileen explores the precarious boundaries of online dating with a series of strangers. Chris’s custody fight for his son escalates to devastating levels. Marya faces an unexpected choice that will take her into untested waters. And Francesca herself will contemplate what had seemed impossible: opening her heart once more.

I have wanted to read this book for quite some time… ever since I saw this book at somebody’s house and the cover had this catch line –“What makes a house… Home?” I have to admit that it was that one line that kept playing on my mind and when I received my review copy, I directly plunged into it without even reading the back cover.

Francesca Thayer is the owner of a struggling art gallery and 44, Charles Street. When her relationship falls apart and she is left with a mortgage that she is struggling to pay. As a desperate attempt to regain control of her life, Francesca decides to take in boarders to supplement her income and help pay the mortgage. Soon she realises that her tenants have become more than just tenants as she gets involved in their lives just as they get involved in hers. Eileen, a schoolteacher decides to try the precarious world of online dating. Chris is continuously juggling between his job, parenting and the custody battle of his seven year old son.  And then there is Marya, a cookbook author looking for a fresh start after the death of her husband. From chaos to peace, from heartbreak to laughter – 44, Charles Street makes a transition from being a house to a home.

The characters are the bright spot of this book. Though I do not agree with a lot of their actions, I do have to admit that they did grow on me. I also did like the basic concept of the plot. But, reading quite a few Danielle Steele Novels in quick succession, I am starting to see a pattern in her novels – and that is repetition. I find that the ‘repetitive’ aspect of her novels (see my recent review of ‘A Good Woman’) actually slows down the pace of the novel. Sometimes it feel like the author is treating the readers like a child, telling us ‘Remember I told you A is for Apple and it is a fruit? So, A is for Apple, it is a fruit and it is red in colour’. 

As a reader, if you can get beyond this pattern, 44 Charles Street can still leave you feeling a bit dazed with its confusing messages. On one hand, the author leaves no doubt in readers’ mind about exactly how dangerous online dating can be. And on the other hand the author also portrays her characters cheating on their partners in some way or the other by giving them some warped logic – that makes you think that hooking up with strangers gotta be less risky.

I am sorry to say that I was deeply disappointed with this book. It had a great premise and great potential – but the end product was not that great.

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