Thursday, May 5, 2011

Romance in the Stacks: The Dewey Decimal Sytem of Love

The Dewey Decimal System of Love (2003).
By Josephine Carr.

When I came across this book in the stacks, my first thought was “My goodness!  What a terrible title!”  The cover has a red pair of glasses on it and old school card catalog entry on it.  How could a librarian resist such a promising trashy library romance?  Unfortunately, Dewey Decimal System of Love (DDSoL) is far too tame to qualify as a “trashy romance.”  So tame in fact that the main character, reference librarian Allison Sheffield has lived a chastely for 15 years.  DDSoL is actually a combination between the chick lit genre and mystery; but if you are thinking Stephanie Plum the librarian, your expectations might be a little to high!  DDSoL lacks the laugh-out humor of Janet Evanovich (it’s more crack a smile funny) and the mystery plot never really amounts too much suspense.

At the beginning of the novel, Allison Sheffield lives the quiet, monk-like existence of a forty-yearold spinster librarian.  She takes no pleasure in food or fashion (what’s wrong with her!) and has all but given up on romance.  That is until she sees the new Finnish orchestra conductor Aleksi Kullio in action and develops an obsessive crush on him.  However, there are two problems with Kullio: 1). he’s married and 2). his beautiful wife might be trying to poison him.  Allison feels she has no choice but to investigate the wife and attempt to woo Kullio by transforming herself from a librarian with glasses into a librarian without glasses and with bouncy hair!

Quibbles:  Aleksi Kullio never really appealed to me as a potential romantic lead. He was described as being middle aged and having long, white blond hair.  I pretty much pictured him as Dewey Largo (appropriate name!), Lisa’s music teacher from the Simpsons’-- not exactly Rodrigo Santoro.  Also, he came across as being pretentious and a little bit creepy.  It was hard to understand why Allison was so smitten with him.  Allison’s boss (and other potential love interest) Gordon was slightly more appealing, though Carr never really described what he looked like besides being a lady killer.  I really don’t think there are too many handsome, charming  playboy librarians running around though!

The not-so-hunky Dewey Largo!
The mystery plot also seemed a little tacked on.  There is never too much suspense, besides Kullio’s wife Michelle  walking into the library, looking up poisons (for her "novel”), and being mean to Allison.  In turn, Allison “investigates” by following Michelle around to keep tabs on her.  Not exactly the best or most subtle method.  

Praise:  I did like the fact that Allison isn’t really a typical chick lit character.  She’s skinny because she lives off Lean Cuisine meals and not all that concerned with her hygiene.  She’s also well read, Bryn Mawr-educated, and listens primarily to classical music.  It was refreshing to have a character who was a little bit pretentious, mean and socially awkward.  It also made her obsession with Kullio a little more plausible (seriously though I don’t know why anybody would be obsessed with Dewey Largo!).

Overall, I thought DDSoL was a fun, light read.  Fans of libraries, classic music, and late bloomers would probably enjoy this book, though the mystery could have been better developed.