The Idea of You

(by Robinne Lee)

I have, yet again, finished last month’s romance book club read a little late—thanks to the movie adaptation of this one, I had to wait a while for my hold to come in at the library. The plot: a divorced mom takes her daughter (who is twelve when the book opens) and two friends to Vegas to see a boy-band that the kids love. Her ex got the tickets in a benefit auction for their daughter’s school, and part of the package is a meet-and-greet before the show. At the meet-and-greet, one of the guys says he’ll send someone to bring them backstage after the show; at the afterparty that guy, Hayes, talks to the mom, Solène—and then, five days later, calls her at the gallery she co-owns, asking her out for a meal with him. After that lunch, they talk on the phone, and then they’re in New York at the same time and agree to meet up again. And after that lunch they kiss, and then they go out for drinks, and then she invites him back to her hotel room.

Which is the start of their relationship, which, because he’s a pop star on tour, consists largely of her going to whatever city the band is in, when she can, interspersed with vacations elsewhere whenever he has a break. There are complications: it’s weird that she’s dating her daughter’s celebrity crush, and people are judgy about the 20-year age gap (and there’s definitely a double standard where people are more judgy about this kind of age gap when the woman is the older one), and Solène isn’t prepared to deal with the things that come with his level of fame—paparazzi always in wait, harassment from fans, and everything else that being a mega-celebrity entails. Telling a friend about going to South America with Hayes and the band, she says this: “We can’t go anywhere by ourselves. We can’t sightsee. We can’t have a casual dinner at a restaurant. We can’t go for a walk. We can’t do anything without an entourage and bodyguards, and this is his life for months out of the year.” And it’s all made more fraught by the fact that what she assumed would be a quick fling turns into something much more.

One thing I liked a lot about this book was the way it gives us glimpses of Solène’s work life: her trips, as a gallerist, to Art Basel Miami Beach and FIAC and Freize—and I like the way that Lee references actual artists/works of art alongside fictional ones, like when Solène shows Hayes two pieces by Olafur Eliasson that she loves (Dew Viewer and The New Planet). I also like all the excellent scenery that Solène and Hayes get to experience together, and the descriptions we get of it—from cherry blossoms in Japan in spring to Paris in October, which Solène describes like this, at the end of the FIAC fair: “The light was beautiful at this time of day. Even through the gray, everything was tinged gold and russet with the changing leaves. It dawned on me that I had not seen the late-afternoon sky in almost a week.” (Paris side note: I love that Hayes takes Solène to tea at Mariage Frères!) Or the view of Long Island from above en route to Sag Harbor, described like this: “Sprawling mansions and fields of green, the colors vibrant and exaggerated like a David Hockney.” Also, Solène’s description of her house, swoon: “It’s modern. Clean lines. Lots of midcentury furniture. It’s on the Westside, up in the hills, overlooking the ocean. There are walls of glass, and the light is always shifting. The rooms change, at dawn, at dusk. It’s like living in a watercolor.”






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