Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Allison Pearson writes an engaging novel about a crush on a pop star.

I was not at all sure I would enjoy this novel, but something about the topic sounded intriguing. Allison Pearson took this slightly unpromising topic and created an exciting novel.

I Think I Love You

People familiar with pop music of the 1970s would recognize the title as that of a David Cassidy song. (I didn’t realize that until more than halfway though the novel.) Allison Pearson’s I Think I Love You (336 pages, Knopf, $24.95) tells the story of the crush that a teenager in Wales had on David Cassidy, singer and star of “The Partridge Family” TV show in the early 1970s.

Petra and her friend Sharon are no ordinary fans—or maybe one point of the novel is that they are exactly like all the millions of other fans—they collect memorabilia and subscribe to the David Cassidy Magazine. They know every detail of his private life, and they even wear clothes that match what is supposed to be his favorite color, brown. They build a shrine to the pop star in Sharon’s bedroom—Petra’s mother, a German, believes only in serious music, and to placate her Petra also studies the cello.

Once we have become accustomed to listening to these two girls expound about their obsession, we meet Bill. Bill is a scruffy dirty-blond bloke who has just graduated from college with a degree in English. He loves rock music and he answered an ad for a writer in a music magazine. When he finds he is working for the David Cassidy Magazine, he is not at all happy; but he needs a job and he starts writing for the fans. In fact his job is to create David Cassidy for the British readers. He makes up details of David’s personal life, and he writes letters to the fans. He creates a fictional David, as it were, so that the fans can have something to sink their teeth into.

When it turns out that David Cassidy is coming to London for a series of concerts in 1974, the magazine goes all out to get their readers involved. They run a contest—a really hard one—about the details of David’s life. We see Bill making up the questions, and then we see Petra and Sharon doing all they can to solve them. The story reaches a culmination when the girls attend the crush of a concert in a venue that is overrun by screaming teenagers. Bill attends too, and at one moment there is a chance meeting between the young music writer and these avid David Cassidy fans.

This all takes us half way through the novel. The second half takes place nearly twenty years later. Petra has been married and divorced, and she lives in London as a professional cellist working in music therapy. Bill has risen to an executive position in a company that deals in entertainment journalism of various kinds.
Through one coincidence after another—it would ruin the story to say exactly how—these characters meet up again, never sure whether they met earlier, and find their different roles in the David Cassidy phenomenon are actually quite complementary. That is not before confusion, misunderstanding, and mutual accusation, of course.

Pearson brings everything together beautifully at the end, and then she closes the novel with an Afterword which consists of her own interview with David Cassidy himself in 2004. That makes great reading too, and it is a wonderful way to bring this fascinating novel to a close.

Allison Pearson

I Think I Love You is available at Powell's, Vroman's and Amazon.

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