Francesca is stuck at St. Sebastian’s, a boys’ school that pretends it’s coed by giving the girls their own bathroom. Her only female companions are an ultra-feminist, a rumored slut, and an impossibly dorky accordion player. The boys are no better, from Thomas, who specializes in musical burping, to Will, the perpetually frowning, smug moron that Francesca can’t seem to stop thinking about.
Then there’s Francesca’s mother, who always thinks she knows what’s best for Francesca—until she is suddenly stricken with acute depression, leaving Francesca lost, alone, and without an inkling of who she really is. Simultaneously humorous, poignant, and impossible to put down, this is the story of a girl who must summon the strength to save her family, her social life and—hardest of all—herself.
Ever since I’ve read and absolutely loved On the Jellicoe Road I wanted to read another book by Melina Marchetta, but it took me more than a year to finally do it. It happens sometimes to me. I put aside books written by my favorite authors (especially when they don’t have a long backlist).
Everyone loved this book, and I wanted to love it too. It makes me sad, but I wouldn’t be putting Saving Francesca on my favorite shelf. While reading it I felt like the author kept me at arm length. And it’s hard for me to feel such distance between myself and the story. I want to be pulled into the book, to feel the same emotions as characters. There were several meaningful emotional scenes, where I felt deeply and I wept, but most of the time I was a bystander.
Some scenes were really dragged out. And I missed that urge to “read one more page” that I had with On the Jellicoe Road. I could put aside Saving Francesca for a couple of days and it’s never a good sigh.
I also haven’t been sold on the romance. This book is not centered on the romance (thank goodness, because my rating would be lower), but I find several aspects of this relationship problematic. [su_spoiler title=”Spoiler”]Will has a girlfriend, but still kisses Francesca at a party, and still didn’t break with his girlfriend after that. And I didn’t get any clear explanations; he continued to send her some mixed signals.[/su_spoiler]
Now that I got negative stuff off my chest I want to say that there is a lot to like in this book.
The writing is beautiful.
Melina Marchetta’s characterization is impeccable. She wrote such realistic characters in this book. Every single one of them, no matter how small their part, is given their time and unique personality. They all are so imperfectly perfect. Francesca especially has a strong likable voice, and her dry sense of humor reminded me of one of my friends so much.
Melina Marchetta writes amazing dialogs.
The author gave such a realistic depiction of everyday life of a teenager.
Melina Marchetta’s trademark humour.
On the side note it bothers me that Francesca’s father’s unwillingness to get his wife professional help and his aversion to antidepressants were never addressed.
My mind says that it was a well-written thought-provoking story that raises a lot of important topics such as depression, its effects on families, feminism, friendship and how hard it can be to be yourself when you are a teenager. But my heart stays cold and won’t let me give this story high rating.
PS. I wonder if my perception of Thomas Mackee was different because I knew that The Piper’s Son was his story. I watched him closely and I liked what I saw a lot. There was goodness under all teenage boy silliness.
My favorite quotes from the book
“People with lost personalities will suffer a great deal more than those with lost virginities”
“The truth doesn’t set you free, you know. It makes you feel awkward and embarrassed and defense-less and red in the face and horrified and petrified and vulnerable. But free? I don’t feel free. I feel like shit.”