Talking at Night by Claire Daverley
Published by Pamela Dorman Books
Publication date: June 20, 2023
Genres: Debut, Fiction, Coming-of-age, Contemporary, Literary
Talking at Night is a love story about Rosie and Will, two young people impacted by a guilt-inducing tragedy when they’re in their teens, but whose feelings for each other continue to push them together and pull them apart throughout their lives.
The two couldn’t be more different. Will is the rebellious sort—no interest in school, mysterious. The type of guy high school girls are always drawn to and Rosie is no exception despite his being the antithesis to her regimented life of studying and planning for her future. Her anxieties manifest in an insomnia that matches his and allows the two to connect over long late-night phone calls. Calls that lead to more than friendship and serve to keep them emotionally connected even when their lives are miles apart.
Debut author Claire Daverley follows Will and Rosie’s lives into adulthood, but the plot of Talking at Night is secondary. This is a character study that beautifully captures the intricacies of the emotional rites of passage found in each life. There is loss, guilt, identity, grief, anxiety, and love. But for as much as Daverley’s writing evoked I couldn’t connect to their story. Not altogether surprising, in a tumultuous love story sides are inevitably chosen for one lover or the other. In this case, I was team Will, who, despite his brooding exterior is the underdog, the one who comes when called. Rosie treats him like an emotional chew toy, mauling him when she needs comfort or escape, but discarding him, worse for wear, when she’s ready to move on.
I’m usually up for angsty reading that gets into all the feelings, but Talking at Night was a bridge too far. There is real tragedy for both Will and Rosie at various points in their lives, but they still have a choice. Either succumb to it or move through it and these two do neither. Instead, Will wallows in a deep-seated self-loathing while Rosie waffles in a level of yearning that becomes self-indulgent. It works for a time thanks to Daverley’s descriptive prose, but by the novel’s end the rinse/repeat cycle left me cold.
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