June 29, 2011

Book Review: Dreams of Significant Girls by Cristina García

At First Sight: Three different girls clash at an exclusive Swiss summer camp - at a boarding school - in the early 1970's. The three of them come from privileged backgrounds but couldn't be more different. German/Canadian Ingrid is loud, bold and eccentric; Iranian Shirin is conservative, quiet and a brilliant mathematician; Cuban Jewish Vivian moved from Miami to New York, likes to dance and LOVES to cook.

They get stuck as roommates during that first summer - and the two following ones - as they battle the demons they carry from home.

Ingrid has the reputation for being a troublemaker, for being easy, and craves the freedom she doesn't have in her small Canadian town. Shirin is shy and would prefer to spend her time either with her beloved older brother or studying physics and math. Vivian wants to be the greatest chef of her time, never mind that her mother doesn't think it's an appropriate profession for a well educated girl.

As time goes by, they become best friends, even if they lives takes them in different directions, they become each other's best friends, even if they only meet for a month each year.

Second Glance: I really liked the idea of Dreams of Significant Girls - I love the title and cover, and I'm a sucker for boarding school stories, I have to admit.  But somehow, this story never finished clicking for me. 

Part of it is, I think, because I wasn't really aware the book was set in 1971-73 until I began to read it, and it threw me off a little. But mostly it was because I never really connected with Ingrid, Shirin or Vivien - at all. Ingrid was kind of repellent from the start; Shirin was a huge snob and sort of hot and cold all the time; Vivien was the most likable of the three, and I liked her in theory, but not like I wanted to be her friend.

And I think that was it, I didn't want to be friends with any of these girls. I didn't even want to be enemies with them, there were parts of them that read kind of flat to me.

Bottom Line: I think the enjoyment factor of this book is entirely dependent on how much you connect with the girls. I didn't, so I didn't enjoy it all that much. Other wise, the writing is good, and the pace decent if a bit hectic. Oh, it comes out July 12, 2011.

Favorite Quote: I ignored her and continued sweet-talking the soufflés. "Are you ready to come out yet?" I coaxed, feeling strangely elated. Was I imagining their collective sigh of "Oui"? With conviction, I turned to Chef d'Aubigne and triumphantly announced. "The soufflés say they are done."

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