Rarely has a book affected me so emotionally as the audiobook of Genevieve Wheeler’s Adelaide. On Friday evening, I even had to stop listening and ask myself if I really wanted to continue because it roused in me sharp memories of a long ago unrequited love, probably the first love I ever felt intensely about. Years of practicing “living in the moment” brought me back so I could finish this astounding debut novel.
Blurb: Adelaide Williams is a 20-something American, living in dreamy London. With wonderful friends and fierce ambitions, Adelaide has little interest in finding “The One” right now, but when she meets Rory Hughes on a dating app—a charming Englishman who’s been placed there by fate, she swears—that all changes. All of a sudden, Adelaide finds herself completely in love.
Does he respond to texts? Honor his commitments? Make advanced plans? Sometimes, rarely, and no, not at all. But Adelaide is convinced that if she just tries and fights and loves a little harder, he’ll fall for her as deeply as she’s fallen for him. (He has to… right?) Because it’s clear to Adelaide that their fate was written in the stars. Why else would they have attended that same play last fall, or that Yankees game in 2016? Their paths never crossing until just the right moment.
Their relationship is made all the more complicated when Rory is thrust into a season of unexpected mourning, and soon Adelaide—the ever-supportive Adelaide—begins to fall apart herself, while striving to hold him together.
A millennial love story, Genevieve Wheeler’s Adelaide explores the complexities of grief, the power of friendship, and the nuance of mental health. With unflinching honesty, and zany warmth, this raw, vulnerable novel captures the timeless nature of what it’s like to be young and in love—with your friends, with your city, and with a person who cannot, will not, love you back.
Adelaide Williams says that she is not the life of the party. That distinction is held by her friends who move more easily in the spotlight than she does. What Adelaide Williams is though is the sunshine, the warmth, the one who always gives the most thoughtful gifts, the one who is there, always, for her friends. And, then when she meets Rory Hughes on a dating app, amazed that he’s the same boy she saw a few years ago, the Disney prince, she becomes there for him. She falls in love with him and then tries so very hard to make him fall in love with her the same way in Genevieve Wheeler’s very moving, Adelaide.
While the blurb tries to convince us that Adelaide is a love story, it is not a traditional love story. Not the boy meets girl and happily-ever-after ensues. This is a love story of unrequited love. Of love for those who are the best parts of our lives, who are always there for us: our friends who become our family. It is a love story of finding love for oneself when one deems oneself to be unworthy but discovers that’s not true. So, yes, this is a love story, just not a romantic one.
What makes Adelaide so truly affecting are the characters who feel like real people with flaws, foibles, insecurities, compassion, and loyalties. It’s very easy to read about Adelaide and find her to be a silly girl for not seeing just who Rory is and, even when she does, for not accepting that he will not change. Unless you’ve actually been one of those silly little girls yourself and lived through a situation in which you thought you could love enough for both of you.
Rory, on the other hand, is a self-absorbed mess. He is thoughtless, unkind, and concerned just with himself. Charming is as charming does and in this case, Adelaide is the only one who remains charmed.
Adelaide raises trigger topics like suicide, delves into mental health, in very real ways. There is no brushing events and behavior under a rug; it’s dealt with honestly. As it should be.
While this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I found it to be a tonic I didn’t know I needed. A beautiful read, sometimes funny, always touching and real, so very real.
Regarding the audiobook narration. Caitlin Kelly does an outstanding job of narrating this book. When they say: read to you by, this is the kind of narration that makes you acknowledge that the narrating is far more than just reading the book aloud. She made all of the different characters come to life. Her voices for Adelaide and Eloise were so different that you could have believed there were multiple voices in the mix. Her voice soothed through difficult passages, adding just the right amount of emotion to make listening to the book a far more intimate experience than simply reading it.
I received a copy from Macmillan Audio in exchange for an honest review.