Thursday, June 18, 2015

7 Heart Review: Hugo and Rose by Bridget Foley

I haven't written a review in a loooooongass time, even though I've been reading quite a lot these days. I'm a little rusty so I apologize if my thoughts aren't as put-together, but this is one of the many books I've finished and have had in my stack of "to-review" books, which means there are more to come!

The focus of this blog has really evolved to feature authors with new releases, and of course, host giveaways, which seem to be the most popular posts here for obvious reasons—rather than reviews. I'm on summer vacation at the moment which gives me lots of free time to read, although I don't feel as urgently motivated to review them all, as I used to be. I'm enjoying getting to read books I've had on my TBR pile (that I've forever neglected due to school/work, or because I was committed to my ARCs from publishers instead), and revisiting old classics... it's a great feeling, no pressure and no obligation. Book reviews definitely have their merits but I feel more connected to the literary and publishing world by keeping up with new releases, and of course with interacting with my lovely readers. Can you believe we hit 15,000 followers on Bloglovin'?! I appreciate each and every one of you all, as always ♥

If you guys have any input on what you'd like to see on Books à la Mode in the future (book-, beauty-, or fashion-related!) please don't hesitate to let me know.

Hugo and Rose
Bridget Foley

Page Count: 352

Release Date: May 5th, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (Macmillan)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, St. Martin's Press!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

A beautifully imagined women's fiction novel about a housewife who's dreamt of the same man every night her entire life—until she has a chance meeting with him in the real world.

Rose is by most qualifications an ordinary housewife, except for her dreams. Since childhood, she has always dreamt of the same island, with the same imaginary companion: a brave, heroic boy named Hugo. Rose’s own children now live for tales of Hugo and Rose’s adventures, battling giant spiders and bouncing on the pink sand of the Blanket Pavilion. And each night, after putting her sleepy children to bed, Rose escapes from the monotony of diapers and cracker crumbs to become a more perfect, fully-realized version of herself.

Until one day, Rose stumbles across Hugo in real life, and everything changes. Here is the man who truly knows her, who grew up with her, even if they aren’t what either one imagined. Their chance encounter begins a cascade of questions, lies, and a dangerous obsession that threatens to topple everything she knows. Is she willing to let go of everything she holds dear to understand their extraordinary connection? And will it lead her to discover who she truly wants to be?
Why had the universe conspired to send her dreams of the same person every night of her life and then present him to her now, when there was nothing to be done about it? When her life was already locked into place. Her husband chosen. Children born. Investment plans selected.
How inconvenient it all was. To meet the man from her dreams now.

I was initially drawn to this book for its creative synopsis (as well as, let's face it, its beautiful cover), and while it isn't everything I hoped for it to be, it definitely surprised me in many areas, and I'm glad I was able to give it a chance.

Rose is a jaded housewife—a self-admitted "bad" mother and wife who hates tending to her kids and putting up with her loyal husband, but feels obligated to, in order to be a "good" person. Approaching middle age, she's not attractive, not strong, and feels like she isn't fulfilling anything, except for when she is asleep, in her nightly dreams, where she is a brave, slender adventurer with a handsome lifelong companion, Hugo.

When Rose encounters Hugo unexpectedly, jarringly, in her waking life, any literary audience would anticipate drama and threat to her mediocre living to unfold. True to expectation, this is a story about an ordinary woman with an extraordinary condition that follows the dangers of fantastical obsessions and idealized prospects when they intervene with real life.

While narrated in close third person, Rose is a very distant, detached character. I didn't necessarily not like her, and because she herself acknowledges her extreme defects (such as neglecting her children, pushing away her husband, Josh, etc.), I felt like she was somewhat relatable as a character who hasn't yet discovered herself, someone who just wants something more out of life. However, the path to her foolish decisions seemed very unnatural; I personally found myself wondering what was wrong with her inability to ever be rational.

One major thing that irked me was how Josh, Rose's husband, is an extremely two-dimensional character; more a plot device than anything. You would think that a literary/family story would incorporate more intimacy or complexity regarding the marriage or husband—the more you have, the more to lose—but he seemed thoroughly flat. What bothered me the most is that Foley relies on Josh (not completely, but heavily) to convey Rose's appearance and personality; he's constantly talking about how beautiful and wonderful a wife she is (which I personally couldn't see...) but it was a major point-of-view inconsistency, as the narrative is meant to be immediate to Rose.

Rose's obsessive, narrow-minded search for finding out what she really wants through incorporating Hugo into her waking life, when it's clear he was meant to only stay in her dreams, takes the thriller route in the last 25% of the book, which I didn't foresee at all, but still ate up every bit. The pure domestic suspense that expands into an actual struggle between life or death is flawlessly executed, and it was certainly my favorite part.

The interpretation of how Rose and Hugo are actually connected is beautiful, and quite haunting as well (I won't give it away, as it's a huge "aha!" scene in the book). The fantasy layer of the story drew me in at first, but I still appreciate how a real-life explanation was still provided; readers will find it moving, or interesting at least.

Pros


Unique plot, unlike anything I've ever come across before // Vividly imagined // Children are well characterized and lovable // Overall fascinating concept of connecting with another real-life person in dreams // Seamless backstory incorporated

Cons


Rose's character... I could relate to her in some respects but hated her most of the time because of her socially inept/questionable decision-making // Josh's character (Rose's husband) seemed like a plot device more than an actual person // Many clichéd phrases scattered throughout so-so quality writing // Very odd POV shifts

Verdict


Uniquely imagined and poignant in its implications about the human subconscious, Hugo and Rose is not your average things-fall-apart literary novel. Incorporating the fantastical element of dreams and a thrilling twist of a climax, it is captivating and thoroughly original, although not without faults. Looking past the annoying characters and problems I had with the narrative voice, I would definitely recommend Bridget Foley's debut for fans of strange but wondrous plots and blurry distinctions between dream and reality. It runs in the vein of magical realism, which in literature, is actually quite difficult to pull off, as Foley has Americanflag

7 hearts: Not perfect, but overall enjoyable; borrow, don't buy! (x)