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by Emma Donoghue

Emma Donoghue’s latest novel, Landing, is a traditional romance with a contemporary twist. The book follows the story of two lesbian lovers who struggle to maintain their relationship despite vast geographic distance and personality differences. The only problem is, they don’t struggle enough.

This is the fifth novel for the Irish-born Donoghue, who now lives in London, Ontario. All of her previous books have been critically well received, and she has been praised for combining enthralling and vibrant storytelling with intricately
woven plots.

Landing, however, is not so enthralling, not so vibrant. Jude, a 26-year-old soft-spoken tomboy, is firmly and stubbornly settled in her hometown of Ireland, Ontario, where she works as a museum curator. On her first-ever plane trip, she meets the stylish and exotic 39-year-old Síle (pronounced “Sheila”), a charismatic flight attendant from Dublin. They make an undeniable – albeit brief – connection in transit, and later begin to correspond via letters and e-mail. Things heat up thanks to the occasional carnal visit, and they fall in love.

While some troubles arise because of distance – which leads to much discussion about whether humans are meant to settle in one place with one partner or meant to roam – the reader never really feels that the situation jeopardizes Jude and Síle’s relationship, or their love. Other, more substantial crises are given only cursory treatment. For example, when Síle discovers that Jude is married, and, although separated from her husband, still occasionally has sex with him, she is enraged. But this conflict is resolved in two pages.

Virtually obstacle-free, the story becomes saccharine-sweet. Jude and Síle’s whinging to friends about the challenges of a long-distance relationship is not enough to sustain our interest in their tale or its themes, especially when the novel’s ending is obvious almost from the very start.