Farran Smith Nehme, Missing Reels
This novel, set in New York in the late 1980s, follows the plucky young Ceinwen (pronounced KINE-wen) Reilly as she attempts to pursue her dreams in the big city. Unfortunately, she’s completely broke, so she lives with two roommates and works for a terrible boss at a vintage clothing store. But Ceinwen remains dedicated to her love of vintage clothes and classic movies — the older the better. She is also fascinated by her downstairs neighbor, Miriam, an older woman who is always poised, reserved, and impeccably dressed. Little by little, Ceinwen strikes up an acquaintance with Miriam and learns that she once starred in a silent movie that has since been lost. Ceinwen immediately becomes obsessed with the idea of finding the lost film, and with the help of a handsome British professor, she searches for anyone who might have a connection to the missing reels. In the course of her investigation, Ceinwen finds a community of fellow film nuts, a new romance, and possibly even a future career for herself.
I hate to say it, but this was one of my most disappointing reads of the year so far. The cover blurb makes the novel sound like a screwball romantic comedy, somewhat in the vein of “Bringing Up Baby” (which I love!). Suffice it to say, the book is nothing like that. There is very little humor in it, and Ceinwen is definitely not the effervescent, witty heroine I wanted her to be. Instead, she comes across as pushy and obsessive, practically stalking Miriam in order to get the inside scoop on her past life. I didn’t like her or her love interest, who is insufferably smug and patronizing, so I definitely wasn’t satisfied by the romance. And even as a fan of classic movies, I didn’t find anything interesting about Ceinwen’s quest to find the lost film. She goes around interviewing every person with even a remote connection to the film, asking questions she really has no business asking, and eventually the answer just plops into her lap. There’s no tension, no real stakes to the investigation. Overall, this book was disappointing to me on many levels — especially because I was hoping for something quite different.