Sylvia Brownrigg delivers a beautifully done, complex novel, Pages For You. The novel follows the life of seventeen year old Flannery Jansen as she begins her first semester in a campus college. Just learning about life and naïve about love, Flannery meets twenty-eight year old graduate student Anne Arden, a more experienced, and hardened by life woman. Flannery is immediately attracted to this enigmatic young woman, and realizes that she must be gay. After some rocky starts, Flannery and Anne become lovers, where Anne teaches Flannery some real life lessons. Flannery goes along in a happy, romantic existence for a while, until she and Anne become more distant as it becomes clear Anne is hiding something. And then a shocking revelation leads to the devastation of first love and loss, where Flannery must learn to stand on her own, using all the good Anne has taught her.
Pages For You is told with a great eye for detail. The way Brownrigg describes the seasons and campus give a New-England feel to the story, which makes it a bit charming. The characters are real and complex, as all humans are. Flannery is a likeable young woman with her questions on life and her realization about her sexuality. She starts out very quiet and shy, but as the novel progresses she becomes more self-assured.
There were a few things about the novel that didn’t sit right though. Mostly it was the relationship between Anne and Flannery, and Anne herself. All through the book, the differences between naïve Flannery and fiery Anne clashed in a way that made it hard to believe they would ever love each other. And they never seemed to share an equal partnership. Anne seemed throughout the novel to be the one “in charge”; making all the decisions and sometimes treating Flannery like a child. And while Flannery was open to talking about her past, Anne didn’t reveal enough about herself, and of course there was the secret that she hid from Flannery until the young woman stumbled upon it one day.
Anne Arden was not a likeable character. She was too blunt, and said hurtful things sometimes, belittling Flannery. She seemed cold and distant, and I found it hard to care about her. It was clear that Anne was not really serious about Flannery, and her later actions made her even less likeable. I found her to be quite selfish, and felt that Flannery deserved a lot better. It was a relief that their relationship ended, as it never felt like a real relationship to me.
Pages For You is well written and a story of first love a lot can relate to. But for someone looking for a novel with partners who respect each other equally, and do not hide things from each other, then this is, I’m afraid, not the book to read.