The Continuity Girl by Leah McLaren

The Continuity Girl by Leah McLaren

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Trade, 339 pages, 2006

Rating: 10/10

Reason for Reading: All these years of reading chick-lit and I’d never read an author from Toronto, my hometown – it practically seemed mandatory.

Synopsis: Meredith Moore excels as a ‘continuity girl’ – the girl on film sets that makes sure each take fits in perfectly with previous ones – no cigarettes mysteriously jumping from hand to hand, no fly-away hairs dancing up and down during a scene. It’s her job to make it look like everything flows, in other words. Her own life seems to be on a similar track of careful consideration – until she turns thirty-five and a trip to the doctor sends her fleeing from her job in Toronto to London, England, which is home to her batty mother and a host of genetic possibilities: Meredith has decided to become a ‘sperm bandit’ in order to have a baby before it’s too late. She doesn’t actually want to become involved with a man, but her seemingly-simple plan seems to lack the ease of a Hollywood movie…

Why you should read this book: I expect certain things in chick-lit books – humour, men, drinking, great female friends, a slightly under-challenging job, drinking – but ‘genuine surprise’ so rarely makes an appearance that it sometimes feels like an out-of-reach dream. Not so with The Continuity Girl, as Meredith isn’t geared up to go traipsing down the aisle with Mr. Right, allowing her story to twist and turn as naturally as it would in real life. She tries out new work, meets an amazing array of very different but well-developed characters, and deals with her over-the-top mother, Irma, a ’60s hippie who stayed a ’60s hippie, motherhood be damned. There’s not a blind pursuit of a baby, either, with lots of questioning, largely thanks to Irma’s own single-mother status and willingness to send her daughter to boarding school on the other side of an ocean. The thing that makes Meredith so readable is her willingness to realize that since she’s put herself in such a strange position, she might as well go along for the ride, jumping on every opportunity with a no-holds-barred, ‘let’s just see what happens’ sort of attitude. With excellent characters, skilled writing, and a gift for clever plotting, you’re sure to be thrilled with how genuinely curious Meredith’s life will keep you up until the very end. The Continuity Girl elevates the chick-lit genre to absolutely wonderful levels – like Meredith herself, it’s willing to push outside of what you’d expect.

Why you should avoid this book: The idea of a woman who wants to be a ‘sperm bandit’ might be too much for some people, but the book really isn’t about screamingly hysterical women freaking out and doing anything to have a baby – it’s much more emotionally involved (and calm) when you’re actually reading the book.

Opening paragraph:

A long night staggered into day. It was four a.m., the witching hour of the daily production schedule, and the crew was divided. They’d been shooting for fourteen hours and were now well into triple time. Tempers were either ready to break or soothed by mental calculations of the next pay stub. The collective energy was out of sync. It had been one of those days.

Fabulous quotes:

‘You know she’s desperate to have a baby,’ said Mish.
‘She told you that?’
‘I can smell it.’
‘Really.’ Meredith was suddenly uncomfortable. Not just with this conversation but with the whole topic of babies in general. She thought about pregnancy so much these days that talking about it had become embarrassing. Funny how the things that obsessed you privately became a matter of public shame. She felt like a person carrying a secret torch so large she could hardly bear to mention the name of her crush out loud.

‘Care for a nip?’ Irma indicated the bottle of Limoncella balanced on the sofa near her gnarled and naked feet.
‘I’ll have water.’ Meredith rose and wove her way around the stacks of magazine and books toward the kitchenette sink. ‘Want some?’
Irma’s eyes fluttered open. ‘Ucch. Silly Moo, you know I loathe water.’
Irma was always reminding Meredith of things she supposedly knew, but didn’t actually know at all. Had no way of knowing.

Also recommended: Miss Understanding by Stephanie Lessing; Anybody Out There? by Marian Keyes; Divas Las Vegas by Belinda Jones; Goodbye, Jimmy Choo by Annie Sanders.

Also by this author: The Continuity Girl is McLaren’s first novel.

Author’s website:

Fun tidbit: The Toronto/London connection? McLaren writes for one of Canada’s newspapers, The Globe and Mail, which is based out of Toronto. In 2002 she acted as the Globe and Mail‘s London arts correspondent.

Would I read more by this author? In a heartbeat.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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