Readers’ Advisory 1: Landing. Emma Donoghue

Reader’s Advisory post for Landing by Emma Donoghue. 2008 winner of the Golden Crown Literary Society’s Lesbian Dramatic General Fiction award.


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Quick Facts 

Author: Emma Donoghue

Published 2007 by Harcourt, Inc.

Romance, LGBTQ, Women’s Fiction

324pp. $25. 9781051012978

Available in print, eBook, and audiobook

Why I Read It

In the fall of 2014, I found a book on the shelf called Hood by Emma Donoghue. It took a while to read it, because it was a mourning story. However, the story and the characters gripped me, especially the main character, Pen. It also centered around lesbians in Dublin, Ireland. It’s one of my favorite books now. However, it’s depressing as hell. I wanted to read a happier Emma Donoghue novel, and when I found Landing, I thought it would be perfect. Classic romance, lesbians, traveling. I had to give it a shot.

TLL’s Tag

Long distance relationships are tough, but so very worth it.

The Rundown

Jude is a twenty-five year old small town museum curator in rural Ireland, Ontario, Canada. She lives with her mum, Rachel, and has never been on a plane. After a panicked phone call from her mother’s sister, whom Rachel is visiting for the holidays, Jude hops a flight to England. Her seat mate, one George L. Jackson, dies at twenty thousand feet leading to an encounter with flight’s head flight attendant, Síle O’Shaughnessy. Síle is a thirty-nine year old flight attendant from Dublin, Ireland, with an Irish father and an Indian mother. Understandably flustered, Síle buys Jude a coffee in London-Heathrow and the two have a chat and exchange contact information. The encounter leaves a mark on each woman. After her mother’s death, Jude emails Síle, while at the same time, Síle has written (yes, as in snail mail) Jude. A relationship consisting almost entirely of letters, emails, and short visits begins. Problems arise, though, in the forms of Kathleen, Síle’s girlfriend of five years, Rizla, Jude’s best friend and estranged husband, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Here’s what I think

Oh, where do I start? I found this book to be intensely likeable…until the last hundred or so pages. I was taken with Jude and Síle. Their emails and letters were sweet and cute. I have not read a pure romance novel in ages. When I say “pure romance”, I mean one not tinged with some level of the paranormal or dystopian/post-apocalyptic. Landing is a good, mostly clean, romance between two lesbians. It has all the hallmarks of a classic romance with a twist. Girl meets woman. There’s a bit of an age difference between the two ladies. Girl falls in love with woman. Through emails and short visits, the two embark on a long-distance relationship. They lose each other. Jude breaks things off, citing distance and emotional pain. Then, Síle doesn’t arrive as scheduled near the end of the novel. Girl and woman live happily ever after, inasmuch as such a thing is possible. Jude agrees to move to a large city just as Síle is walking up the driveway.

If we stick to the highlights, this book is fabulous. However, from about page 200 to page 320, I wanted to throw the book across the room. There was so much wallowing in sadness. Jude has just said that she can’t deal with the distance anymore. Síle is calling and calling, trying to get Jude to talk to her. Both women are miserable. Rizla is being an ass, getting into fights with strangers. Long buried secrets among friends and family begin to come to light. It was just all too much for me. In one hundred and twenty pages, every character’s life has gone topsy-turvy and not in a good way. The majority of the story exists with Jude and Síle being apart and living their own lives. However, apart from the “get yourself together and go get her or get over her” scenes for each woman, I did not care one whit about the other characters during the break up. Not at all. Within these hundred and twenty pages were good moments, like Rizla calling Síle to Jude’s hospital bed and Síle’s emigration party. But on the whole, I just didn’t care for the ending. It dragged on so.

Final decision

Just because I didn’t like the last hundred pages, does not mean someone else will feel the same way. It also doesn’t take away from the classic feel of the novel or the great writing.

5Q–Hard to imagine it being better written

3.5P–Broad general or genre appeal

Readalikescourtesy of NoveList Plus


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Appeal Factors

Romantic, LGBTQ

Book talk ideas

A panicked transatlantic phone call. p. 2

A dead guy on an airplane. p. 13

A comforting coffee. p. 18

An ailing mother. Pp. 30-31

Doesn’t sound like the beginning of a love story, but it is.

Book discussion questions

1. Before you read this book, how did you feel about long distance relationships? Have your feelings changed?

2. Compare and contrast Jude’s Rizla and Gwen with Síle’s Jael and Marcus.

3. The age difference between Jude and Síle is mentioned a few times. What are your thoughts on acceptable age differences in couples? Is there a such thing?

4.Why do you think Rizla waited so long to grant Jude a divorce? Do you think Jude should have done something about it?

5. What do you make of Orla’s “confession” as to Sunita’s real/suspected cause of death?

6. A lot of topical issues were raised in Landing, including 9/11, discrimination, emigration, infidelity, and prejudice. Which resonated the most with you?

Clues to the Future

Emma Donoghue, lesbians, Canada, Ireland, Dublin, flight attendant, long distance relationship, rural museum curator

Awards and Lists

2008–Lesbian Dramatic General Fiction award, Golden Crown Literary Society

Links to the Author, Interviews, and Reviews

Link to the author:

Interview with AfterEllen:

Kirkus Reviews:

The NY Times Book Review:

Reading from Landing in Antwerp:

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