Lorna Landvik Once in a Blue Moon Lodge

Many thanks to NetGalley for providing me with this novel back in October – there was an embargo on reviews until nearer the publication date, but I think it’s actually out now so all is good. Somehow I’d managed not to realise (even though the description does say this is the case) that this is the sequel to Landvik’s “Patty Jane’s House of Curl”. I knew I had that book, but when I went to get it from the shelf, I realised that I’d had it for 20 years and could hardly remember a thing about it, so then I had to read that one first so I could get the most out of “Once in a Blue Moon Lodge”. I’m glad I did, and I’m going to review them together – divided by a small book confession (a loan isn’t as bad as a full-blown purchase, right?) so if you don’t want to know what happens in “House of Curl”, stop reading when you’ve seen the book on running and come back to this review when you’ve read “Blue Moon Lodge”.

Lorna Landvik – “Patty Jane’s House of Curl”

(9 March 1997)

A much-loved Minnesotan novel of which I had fond memories and which has survived 20 years of regular book culls. The story of Patty Jane and what happens when her husband goes missing suddenly, it’s a tale of female solidarity and friendship which reminds you of “Steel Magnolias” or Fannie Flagg’s novels, with the Minnesotan setting bringing up memories of Garrison Keillor, too. Patty Jane, her daughter Nora, her sister Harriet and her mother-in-law Ione make up the nucleus of the family, and there’s a cast of characters around the salon and then the salon-within-a-salon who support, annoy and cheerlead for them in equal measure. A few curve balls are thrown in as the salon with a difference develops a sexy male manicurist and classes in music, Hollywood and dodgy films, amongst other things. Men tend to be artists, women to be practical and solid, and it’s a great read with laughs and tears and good characters.

Interlude … a book confession

Carry on after the book confession for “Once in a Blue Moon Lodge” …

Even though I wasn’t massively keen on his “Running with the Kenyans”, I did get quite a lot out of it and have done a book swap with my friend Jenny. I’m especially OK with it because my friend Andy commented that Finn is a bit more mature here, so hopefully there’s less disparaging of the club / “fun” runner.

Lorna Landvik – “Once in a Blue Moon Lodge”

(20 October 2016)

This sequel can’t have been planned when “House of Curl” was originally written, because the epilogue of that book happens 25 years after a certain pivotal episode in the novel, and the earliest parts of this one happen before that but take a different path. Anyway, that doesn’t really matter because I’m sure people will be really happy to find out what happened next to these well-loved characters.

It is lovely to revisit Patty Jane’s daughter Nora, now finished with law school, back home and wondering what to do with her life when Patty Jane decides to close the House of Curl. Grandmother Ione is also having a change: when she receives a life-altering letter, she decides to go back to Norway to confront issues from deep in her past. Nora accompanies her, and I got a bit lost here, as they end up being separated so that Nora can meet a lovely chap and fall for him.

There’s a lot of jumping around in timelines and sometimes an e-book is not the best format for this kind of book, as breaks within chapters can get a bit lost. It was easy to pick up the story again, and we find Nora with some hard decisions on her hands, one of which is an offer to buy a lodge by the lake she has previously visited by accident, somehow endearing herself to the crabby owner.

There’s plenty of story in the book, perhaps too much: it jumps about and forwards a lot, and seems to start just listing events rather than dwelling on their emotional importance and impact, and filling us in, introducing a new social issue (war, women’s issues, eating disorders) or giving a character an illness then jumping ahead to the next milestone. Maybe someone who reads more slowly than me would find this more satisfying, but I will admit to being a little disappointed.

I’m sure the few typos I found will be ironed out by publication, but I hope someone picks up that the mention of Reese’s second wife should be of his third, as this had me leafing back through the first novel to check.

Thank you again to NetGalley for providing me with this pre-publication copy.

Are sequels ever as good as the original? Discuss!