Book Review | “George and Lizzie” by Nancy Pearl A refreshingly different kind of Contemporary from the ones you might be more readily familiar!

Posted Friday, 31 August, 2018 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Book By: Over the Summer of [2018] I had the opportunity select titles to review on behalf of Simon & Schuster’s imprint Touchstone – the selections were for new releases and/or upcoming titles from this lovely publisher. Keeping true to my roots, each of the stories (five in total) are a mixture of genres and literary styles (ie. Contemporary, Historical and Memoir) – each of them speaking to me for a different reason. My reviews are forthcoming throughout the months of Autumn and early Winter, with the fifth review arriving in December. I elected to read ‘George and Lizzie’ ahead of the two reviews I’ll be showcasing in September as it felt like the kind of Contemporary I have been craving to find and I had hoped might prove to be a wicked good read to have at the end of Summer!

I received a complimentary copy of “George and Lizzie” direct from the publisher Touchstone (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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The reason reading ‘George & Lizzie’ appealled to me:

In my personal quest to find Contemporary stories which nestle me into their folds, I happen to appreciate a slight bit of ‘quirky’ in my Contemporaries as well! There is something to be said for the ‘unexpected’ – this can take a variety of forms if I were to be truly honest and most likely, it is even something I could not verbally pin-point as being as particularly inclusive of what I’d hope to seek out either! There are certain stories which by their natures are ‘quirky’ by their own natures – the kinds of stories where they have the tendency to stand out amongst the others for there is something uniquely ‘different’ & alluring about their premise.

The two which come to mind rather immediately were my readings of ‘Two Across‘ & ‘Some Other Town‘ though I’d lament ‘The Kinship of Clover‘ befits this kind of reckoning of self-awareness within the realm of this topic due to the nature of how wickedly original it felt as I fell further inside its folds.

This particular title – struck me as a singular title which stands out from the pack due to how it is angled inside the life of George & Lizzie. A couple reaching the invisible line of where their marriage is either going to continue to reunite them together or something rather decidedly is going to cast them apart. Even the approach of the narrative is starkly different from most of the Contemporaries I regularly read as it inserts you right into the thought process of Lizzie as she reflectively looks back on how she first met George.

Interlayered into this ‘introduction’ are glimpses of the present – of what Lizzie & George think of each other even during this lens of retro-spectrum. Almost as if the reader is not yet imparted with all the pertinent details & the writer wants to ease them into an awareness of where things started to unknit themselves and how in time, the distances gathered girth and started to manifest a departure of their bond.

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Book Review | “George and Lizzie” by Nancy Pearl A refreshingly different kind of Contemporary from the ones you might be more readily familiar!George and Lizzie
by Nancy Pearl
Source: Direct from Publisher

George and Lizzie are a couple, meeting as college students and marrying soon after graduation, but no one would ever describe them of being soulmates. George grew up in a warm and loving family—his father an orthodontist, his mother a stay-at-home mom—while Lizzie was the only child of two famous psychologists, who viewed her more as an in-house experiment than a child to love.

After a decade of marriage, nothing has changed—George is happy; Lizzie remains…unfulfilled. But when George discovers that Lizzie has been searching for the whereabouts of an old boyfriend, Lizzie is forced to decide what love means to her, what George means to her, and whether her life with George is the one she wants.

Genres: Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Contemporary Romance, Dramedy, Literary Fiction, Romance Fiction, Women's Fiction

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781501162909

Published by Touchstone

on 17th July, 2018

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 304

 Published By: Touchstone
{imprint of} Simon & Schuster (

Converse via: #Contemporary & #Romance or #GeorgeAndLizzie
Available Formats: Hardcover, Trade Paperback, Audiobook & Ebook

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Listen to Nancy Pearl talk about her debut noveL:

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About Nancy Pearl

Nancy Pearl Photo Credit Nancy Pearl

Nancy Pearl is known as “America’s Librarian.” She speaks about the pleasures of reading at library conferences, to literacy organizations and community groups throughout the world and comments on books regularly on NPR’s Morning Edition. Born and raised in Detroit, she received her master’s degree in library science in 1967 from the University of Michigan. She also received an MA in history from Oklahoma State University in 1977. Among her many honors and awards are the 2011 Librarian of the Year Award from Library Journal; and the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association. She also hosts a monthly television show, Book Lust with Nancy Pearl. She lives in Seattle with her husband.

Photo Credit: Nancy Pearl

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My Review of george & lizzie:

The retrospective lens in which we entreat into George and Lizzie’s life begins rather uniquely on the very day they first ‘met’ quite coincidentally at a bowling alley – the very least interesting place Lizzie might suspect she’d meet her future husband. This reveals itself when she nonchalantly lets a bit of truth ink out about how droll and dull she finds the sport and how even if George is rattling on about it – her attention is never focused on the topic. Rather than a meeting of the minds or even two random people who find they share a mutual interest – theirs was a meeting of conflict and disappointment.

Lizzie was attempting to quash the clamour of thoughts by diluting them with a distraction of alcohol and narcotics – not together, mind, but in sequence of each other. She wanted a reprieve from herself and her life whereas George was quite aware of where he was in life, out on a date and making a rather seemingly brilliant show of sportsmanship towards the coveted 200; until of course, fate had other plans for George! It was here their paths intersected and altered their trajectories – if they were meant to go off into separate directions, it is left unknown for this is where their worlds united.

Whilst their each in their own world (of thoughts, musings and emotions) – their with others who see the whole situation rather differently, for the irony and the comic nature of it all is truly too much to take seriously! Except of course, if your George; as he is surely a bloke whose not meant to ‘let go and forgive’ as readily as you’d hope he could – no, he’s the quirk of type whose bent on remembering exactly how a random act upturnt his world and derailed his achievements.

Before we can better understand where George and Lizzie are in their marriage – it is necessary to draw ourselves backwards – back into the past, where Lizzie was an errant teen bent on disappointing her parents but never saw how her plans to become the most spurned girl in her high school would have a darker imprint on her own soul than merely proving a point to her parents who saw her sitting on a pedestal of their making. The heartache of rumours intermixed with the grievances of a girl who acted in rote automation to achieve a goal her best friend invented as a method of diversion – fuelled her final year of high school. It did not sustain her moods nor endear her with any kind of positive side effects; if anything, you saw how her impression of herself lessened and how despondent she became the more she realised what she was sacrificing of herself rather than what she was supposedly ‘gaining’.

By college, she would meet the one person who would understand what those choices ultimately cost her and how sometimes the person you least expect to understand your life is the one person you meet rather randomly in freshman room placements! I felt it was quite clever to give Marla her own covert secret and to have the two girls’ commiserate over events which neither could control the outcome even if they had a hand in how they first began. They were each living with a past no one else would accept nor attempt to understand – yet, here they were, on the fringes of starting college and supposedly trying to blend into the masses therein of entering this new chapter of their lives without anything anchouring their chances at happiness to the misadventures of their youth.

Finding her stride, Pearl shifts perspectives between George and Lizzie – the interludes lending more perceptional clues towards how these two started off as partners and then, how little slippages of connection started to stack and build into something greater than either of them realised. The small things could be easily dismissed but who ever keeps track of how many small fractures in a marriage could undo the years of connection between spouses? Surely not Lizzie and George! George for his part did not have the afterglow of a happier home life – rather he had the tried and true variant of following in a pattern of predictable outcome as inspired by his father but altered a bit by his brother Todd. Todd was the wildcard in the family – the one who created his own destiny and wrote his own playbook on how to live. George took the cautionary route, chose a predicted future and lived an ideal existence thereafter. If George was perennially predictable, Lizzie was a shooting star without a dedicated course of entry.

Seeing how easily Jack entered Lizzie’s life, falling in step beside her, sharing her love and affection for poetry and the poets who created the verses they each could recite by heart – you had a longing in you to understand how these two were not meant to align together? Were they too similar or was it something more!? What swung her heart in favour of George and out of love with Jack? The whole time their conversing about University and the confines of how professors rarely invest in the healthier side of challenging your mind without numbing your own talent or insight in lieu of their own – you could readily see how hard it is to have individual thoughts in a place where individualism is not always the most accepted route if it goes against the established tides.

The most emotional chapter for me to read through were the intervening years of Sheila positively affecting the young Lizzie with a world full of love, encouragement and spontaneity which placed Lizzie at the centre of someone’s world. Something completely new to Lizzie who was used to being the one person in her parents’ lives who was a distraction and someone who felt more like an interloper than a relative. A bit ahead of this passage of time you learnt the fuller histories of her parents and despite those harsh realities of what they had survived and endured; it was still quite disheartening to believe they could so very easily dismiss their only child.

By the time we shift back into where we began our journey with Lizzie, we have a fuller understanding of the gravity of her plight – of what is emotionally gutting about her loss (of self, of love and of the potential of future hours) and how this has weighed so heavily on her soul, she was physically destroying herself bit by bit – not in a way which could be observed, outside of how her physicality altered itself but slower, where the internal self-recriminations go unnoticed by the outside world but where they drone on forever in the ears of the person subjected to their torment. Lizzie was disappearing into herself and losing the frazzled last bit of traction she had in a world she no longer recognised as her own.

If you have seen the Hallmark Channel Christmas film A Very Merry Mix-Up (2013) starring Alicia Witt you will know why I found it rather endearing George’s Mum was making Lizzie feel right at home with their family at Christmas. It is rather incredible how some families are approachable and others are rather cold and obtuse; coincidentally – in the film I’ve mentioned, Witt’s fiance’s family was distant and aloof to the brink of being devoid of emotional connections, which rather ironically is a commonality of this plot within George and Lizzie. As Lizzie is the one who was raised by parents who could not emotionally connect to their daughter – they were so devoid of interest in anything regarding Lizzie, you almost felt she would have been better off placed for adoption rather than curiously centred in their psychology trials.

Elaine (George’s Mum) makes the strongest impression on Lizzie, but then for Lizzie’s sake she never really had the kind of normalcy George and his brother Todd had in her home. Their lives were radically different from one another and in this way, I think the Christmas Lizzie spent with George’s parents opened her world-view a bit more than all her other experiences. She was able to see what it was like to confide in a motherly figure but also, to see how her boyfriend would react if she was still feeling detached and aloof away from him even at a point in his life where he was choosing to become closer to ‘her’. The stark differences in how they grew up was adding to the disillusions of their adult relationship because it was fractured before it was secured. A bit like how once you find a tooth has cracked there isn’t much hope for it to remain stationary and unchanged.

One of the more brilliant diversions in the story is when Pearl curates ‘lists’ for her characters or rather they for each other depending on how you want to view it! These are organised in the usual manner – the positives and the slightly neutral reasons why people like/love each other countered without the negatives being regarded. The interesting there though is how the lists differ between Lizzie and George and of whom truly was in love with whom.

If you have ever seen Life with Elizabeth starring Betty White, you could in theory visualise George and Lizzie set to a similar exploration of ‘life as it’s been lived’. Meaning, the tv series was a collection of ‘moments’ in the life of one particular man and one particular woman who were married at the time both the narrator and the camera rolled into their living room, kitchen and dining room. From our point of purview, everything happening on the show was not entirely meant for our eyes – we were simply seeing everything because we had the camera to give us this private preview of how the married couple behaved behind close doors. In many ways, Pearl has sorted this out in her novel – of how to give the impression we’re constantly pulling in and pulling of George and Lizzie’s life as if we had a camera settling into certain key moments where they reveal more of themselves than even they would dare believe possible. Yet. Never quite acknowledging the ‘reader’ (or audience) throughout the discourse of what is seen. With the exception of course of the show, wherein ‘Life with Elizabeth’ constantly poked fun at breaking the fourth wall!

You’ve noted the cover art for this novel, George and Lizzie!? It is quite seriously a rather curious self-portrait of how I felt whilst reading this story – it was entirely different from what I expected and yet, try as I might, I could not put the book down as I was already consumed with a yearning of interest to know what exactly was the fate George and Lizzie would need to endure? The foundation of their relationship was structured differently than other couples but so, too, was their communications skills and the ways in which they moved through life together.

The author narrated this and Scribd had a lovely long preview — goes live on the 16th in Sept and I think I might have to listen/re-read the story as there is something wicked unique in how the author approached it! I can’t yet put it into words… it’s her own spin on how to narrate a story like this and somehow, it rings true. As odd as that sounds without a full description – these characters really come to life within her voice and her quirky approach on how to narrate them! Quirky here refers to the uniqueness of how her voice reflects the intonation of the words and the rhythm she sets for you to step through the novel.

George and Lizzie it’s a thinking man’s novel. Writ in differentiating perspectives and interchanging the lead characters for each other whilst back-stepping into the past, resuming the present and shifting foreshadowy into the future. I love when you get a book to review which makes you think long/hard on the subtleties as much as the larger scope of the message therein. Sociologically speaking, I haven’t felt this fully fused into the lives of characters since I watched Road to Perdition!

George and Lizzie shares shelf space with I Capture The Castle for how intuitively both writers etched out the back-histories for their stories. They each ascribed to find a way to retreat into the harder truths of what was driving their characters and what was holding them back. Evocative and cunning, insightful and crushing – George and Lizzie is meant to push you to see ‘George’ and ‘Lizzie’ as they see themselves and how the world views them from the outside. It is only the reader who can decide whom they truly are and if their best ‘selves’ were together or apart. For is this a tragic romance or a non-traditional love story?

A slight fly in the ointment:

Although, I do see the point behind the words which are flickering in and out of the narrative – one in particular if I were to be perfectly honest – I still get annoyed seeing them used causally when others would have equal merit and the same cognition. Despite this indifference to word choices, I can’t fault the rest of the narrative because it reads like a psychology (with sociologically overlays) study on human nature and the intricacies of human choice vs the soulful regrets which can undercut a person’s confidence in owning their choices in moments where they were not acting as themselves.

For me personally, the strength of the writer’s own incantation of narrative was blissfully strong enough to outweigh the words which wrinkled my nose. This is also why I wish they could have been lessened as in many ways, their peppering into the plot took away from the intrinsic nature of how Pearl paints her story real.

on the contemporary writing styling of nancy pearl:

Early-on whilst we’re still back-pedaling through Lizzie’s life – we find her reading I Capture The Castle which is interesting to note, as it is a title on my tCC List – one I began in [2017] on the suggestion of one of my beloved twitterverse chats (ie. #historicalfix) whilst it became the #bookclubfix selection to read in March as this was the book club extension of #historicalfix! I ached to finish despite the fact it was fast approaching the ‘overdue’ status at my library! I had borrowed it through ILL’ing (inter-library loaning) and despite the three weeks I had it on hand to read, it was one of those months where I only truly settled into it’s heart days and hours before it was actually due! Despite the short acquaintance you’d be duly surprised by the breadth of insight I was writing on its behalf – a rumination I hope to share during the next year whenever I’m able to re-fetch a copy (of course!) and re-settle into the murmurs of its rhythm.

I liked how Ms Smith christened the notion writing should be heartfelt first, and explored second – how sometimes what your guided to write is not what you forethought or intended but what is necessary in the hour in which it’s being written. This was curious as there are so many perimeters I find being placed on writers (nowadays) where this initial spark of ‘something’ to be inspired out of our own personal well of experiences, curiosities, ponderings and museful research is not always encouraged to be pursued.

One thing I truly applauded Ms Smith for doing is that she never made this feel outright depressing to read; as a family whose down on their luck could in effect turn self-defacing or take an adage of self-defeat or even be turnt into a tone of condescendence. Instead, you find a lovely pace of introspective murmurs of a seventeen year old girl who is on the verge of maturing into her adult years with the brevity of time spent at a caste time and society have forgotten. She takes the initiative upon herself to ‘find something’ if not readily known on seeking initially to curate a testament of these hours and of these passage of years. She wants to find purpose and presence of mind whilst contemplating everything that is going on in her life as she writes down the truths as she feels them acknowledged in her spirit.

-a small extract from my forthcoming review of I Capture The Castle

For the curiously inclined, the draft is claiming this post of mine is already at 4,914 words!

What is perceptively important to denote, is how in many ways you could in theory draw connections between Dodie Smith’s story and Nancy Pearl’s. Especially in regards to a swirl of insight into mental health and the psychology of choice – of receptively being pro-active within your own mental state and drawing yourself closer to your own internal truth(s). Whilst of course, lending a keen insight into nature vs nurture and the ongoing open threads of discussion about what causes ripples of disconnection – either innate or unintentional; with intentional malice or with a fortitude for preservation.

Further – Cassandra (from I Capture The Castle) was distanced from her father – similarly Lizzie is distanced from hers – the cause of each separation are not akin to each other, but the after effects did not shield either of the girls’ from having carry-over affects to where they could easily resolve the issues which stemmed from having their fathers less present in their lives. For Cassandra it was having a father who was descending into his own downward spiral and for Lizzie it was the augmented reality she grew up inside from having parents more focused on their careers (as psychologists) than on raising a daughter they could love unconditionally.

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Each of the passages where we disappear into a different portion of George and Lizzie’s lives, we can equate the time spent inside those passages with a visual impression of that timescape. Pearl intones enough about each portrait port of entry to give us enough of a glimpse to understand why we’re re-settling in each portal of insight – as each of these flashbacks has merit on the future especially if you consider how impressionable the past truly had become to both George and Lizzie to set the standard of their present.

You dissolve so quickly into the context of the story Pearl has given us – you nearly separate yourself from your emotions – of not allowing this to get to you before you’ve had a proper chance to examine the layers of how this story evolves. Until of course, your nearly at the halfway mark – fully consumed by the headier thoughts this story is percolating inside your mind and wondering – how is it you’ve found a second writer who has taken a story which on the surface should be a rather depressing novel to read but has writ it in such a way as to uplift you as you read rather than paint a cloud of depression over your readerly heart?

If you look at how Pearl has approached writing George and Lizzie – it is almost as if it is an expose on the realities we live vs the realities we perceive – the difference being, if we don’t fully understand what is behind a particular facade how then, do we conceptionally move forward to fill our own destinies? In this instance, Lizzie was missing a crucial piece of evidence into her own family’s hidden past – a piece of importance if you counter her behaviour with the secrets and how in the end secrets never do a family any good.

Realistically grounded:

Pearl discusses a lot of heady choices within her novel – from self-medicating through substances to premarital relations leading to conception of children out of wedlock to the sexual conquests of a teenagers. She also delves into the psychology of growth, the sociological effects of environment and the quasi-internal pursuit of understanding the unthinkable and unacceptable bits of ourselves some project outward if only to understand within.

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Ooh, dear hearts – would you believe!? I’ve read my first ‘art house’ novel – meaning, I have the tendency of finding films made in the version of ‘art house’ wherein the endings arrive rather suddenly & the whole of the context of what you’ve watched doesn’t quite resolve in a way you were expecting it too. Yet. you can’t dismiss the joy you had inside the film or the story – it is only,… how to describe it? You find yourself at the end and wonder, perhaps is it really the end or is it the illusion of the end from whence the beginning is really the end and where you find yourself ending the story is actually where the story was meant to begin all along?

I dearly need to listen to the audiobook & ruminate again about this story which I personally found to be quite #unputdownable because of how it was writ & the murmurs of insight Pearl granted her characters to discover alongside her readers in equal layers of delight.

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This book review is courtesy of:

Touchstone / Simon & Schuster

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 I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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{SOURCES: Book cover for “George and Lizzie”, book synopsis, author biography, author photograph of Nancy Pearl were all provided by Simon & Schuster (courtesy of Touchstone) and used with permission. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Audio commentary provided by embed codes provided by SoundCloud. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Review Banner using (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Frank McKenna and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2018.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Friday, 31 August, 2018 by jorielov in 20th Century, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Contemporary Romance, Content Note, Debut Author, Debut Novel, Disillusionment in Marriage, Fly in the Ointment, Literary Fiction, Modern Day, Romance Fiction, Simon & Schuster, Soundcloud, Vulgarity in Literature, Women's Fiction

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