Emma Donoghue is a lesbian writer with an impressive range. She’s produced literary history, plays and short stories, as well as her novels which cross the genres of historical fiction, contemporary realism and, in the case of Landing, light romance.
In a chance meeting, Sile, a glamorous, 39 year-old, Irish-Indian flight attendant falls for Jude, a twenty-five year old Canadian Quaker from the tiny town of Ireland in Ontario. The book follows the progress of their relationship over the course of a year and, though light in tone, Donoghue includes just enough serious issues to give the story an edge.
As this review notes, Jude and Sile have to deal with generational, economic, cultural and spiritual differences. Landing also uses the theme of the long-distance relationship to explore broader questions around the ways in which technological developments have created new possibilities, but also new problems, for relationships. What should a relationship be based on? How much should you be prepared to give up for a relationship? What are the limits of compromise?
Although Sile is probably the more vivid character, I felt that Donoghue had slightly more sympathy with Jude’s simple lifestyle, an impression created most strongly by the representation of Sile’s atrocious yuppie friends. But both women have to change if their relationship is to succeed and, all in all, it’s a good story about taking risks, compromise and personal growth.
If I have any criticism, it’s that Donoghue creates a narrative problem for herself by having Sile in a long-term relationship when she meets Jude. This creates conflict, which is good for fiction, but Donoghue doesn’t seem to want to risk the reader losing sympathy with Sile, which leads her to create a rather unbelievable relationship and the girlfriend quickly turns into a cardboard cut-out nasty lesbian ex.
Landing resonated with me personally because my partner (who also reviewed Landing here) and I met in inconvenient circumstances and did long-distance between the UK and the States for two years, so we had to deal with a lot of similar issues. I especially enjoyed the emails which reminded me so much of the early days of our relationship when we were very dependent on email – the agonising over sending the message, the excitement of getting a reply, the misunderstandings caused by language differences and the inevitable problems that occur when trying to communicate without the use of voice and body language (thank goodness for emoticons). Donoghue herself emigrated from Ireland to Canada to be with her partner, so I suspect a lot of the emotions attached to that experience went into the writing of Landing.
This is a good holiday read (it was exactly what I needed while having a hard time in the spring). It’s definitely one for fans of lesbian romance, and I’d say worth a look even if (like me) you don’t usually enjoy the genre.