Johanna Baker-Dowdell, Strawberry Communications
A Paullina Simons virgin, I approached A Song in the Daylight without knowledge of the heroines who have gone before this novel’s subject Larissa Stark.
Attractive 40-year-old Larissa is the epitome of a true Shakespearean romantic hero in every way. However, instead the arrogant, unapproachable hero we are used to seeing in Shakespeare, Larissa is a mother and wife who bakes from scratch, drives her three children to school and extra-curricular activities, directs high-school students in Shakespeare and loves shopping. But she is also self-absorbed.
Unknowingly, Larissa approaches her 40th birthday and a crossroad in her life, where she must make a choice that will change her life. A Song in the Daylight is a book about the consequences of our actions and the effect our decisions have on those we love. In Paullina Simons’ words, “There are consequences to everything and we don’t like thinking about that. We don’t like to deal with it.”
“I made her comfortable so her decision was not based on being poor or having an unhappy marriage and her kids weren’t sick. As a romantic hero she had to have complete free will. What would a woman like that do?” she asked, challenging her readers to accept Larissa, for all her faults.
A Song in the Daylight shows what it’s like to love so strongly, standard rules of logic don’t apply. Larissa’s parallel in the book is her childhood best friend, Che, with whom she has kept in contact via letter as they became adults and lived very different lives. As Larissa’s perfect life starts to unravel, she ceases writing to her friend just at the time Che needs her more than ever. “All Che ever wanted was a baby â€“ she had everything else. And that was the one thing Larissa had in spades,” Simons explained.
Reading this book as a mother myself, I found some of Larissa’s choices difficult to stomach. Equally, though, I’ve felt that all-encompassing love that knows no bounds and to that I related. As I felt I got to know her better, I understood the reasons behind some of her decisions and appreciate her predicament.
When I spoke to Paullina Simons about my sympathy for Larissa, she said many readers had disliked the character. “People either like her or can’t get past the other things she did. If you can’t imagine the situation, you might not be compassionate. We can’t feel compassion for things we can’t imagine, or disagree with,” she said.
Larissa was strong enough to follow what she really wanted and to accept the consequences of her decisions. She is an empowered heroine, with human faults.
Available now: HarperCollins RRP$32.99