This isn’t going to be one of my normal reviews. It won’t be balanced or critical. I had an overwhelming emotional response when I finished reading. This has been your fair warning: below there may be gushing.
The Charlotte Holmes books have quickly become my favorite series, and I’m not someone who claims favorites. I don’t even like series, but I like Charlotte, Watson, and their story. I could never fit everything that I want to say in this blog post, so I’m going to take a stab at defining the aspects of the book that I find most compelling at this moment. Maybe there will be more Charlotte Holmes blog posts from me in the future, but for now, here it goes.
If you’ve read the books – and you shouldn’t read past here if you haven’t because, damn it, would you be missing out on a gem of a series if you let me spoil you - you know that there is much to unpack as the fourth (and most likely final) book in the series draws to a close.
My heart splintered when I read the last few chapters of A Question of Holmes. The fact that Jamie and Charlotte have had to give each other up so many times actually puts a pain in my chest. It seems like they’re always waiting for each other, which is beautiful in its own right but it leaves me wondering when they will be together for good? When will moving and finding themselves come to fruition and they are able to grow together without being pulled apart again? God, what a heart-wrenching story.
The thing I like the most about Charlotte and Jamie’s relationship is how much it reminds me of my own relationship – which I know sounds utterly conceited, but it reminds me to be grateful. Charlotte and Jamie’s story reminds me how much I’ve been through. It makes me stop and actually feel the pain that I would feel if I had to part with my boyfriend in the same way that Charlotte does (several times) in the series. That sounds a little sadistic, but it keeps things in perspective. Books are supposed to make you empathetic, but Brittany Cavallaro didn’t just make me feel sympathy for Charlotte and Jamie. She makes me feel like I am in Charlotte's body. Reading her prose was an immersion exercise. Books don’t make me feel that often. Despite my belief that reading is an act of empathy. Charlotte’s story did that for me.
I can’t get the image of Jamie crying out of my head. Him wiping the tears away with his knuckles. How he said, you know I’ll wait for you, but I can’t make you feel like this is okay right now.
Are they even together by the end of the book? We know that when Holmes and Watson are healthy, they make the best couple. We know that when they’re living in the same place and healthy, things can only go in a positive direction. Somewhere past the epilogue, Charlotte and Jamie will get back to the happiness they felt that summer in Oxford, but god, I wanted to see the fullness of that joy in the final pages. Not a whole epilogue that lead up to them hinting at being back together. I mean, I know the assumption is “all will be well as long as they’re in the same place”, but the framing of the epilogue leaves a little more doubt in my mind than I want. But again, that’s an aspect of the story that reminds me of my real life. If you focus on the wrong thing - that hint of doubt - you’re going to drown out the joy of the story’s cycle. A happy ending isn’t a permanent ending. People change. In the story that I like to think exists on the other side of the epilogue, Charlotte and Jamie could make the choice not to wait for each other. They could forget how happy they were. So maybe allowing that doubt to linger instead of neatly tidying it up was Cavallaro’s way of letting it be real. Even though that was tough for me to stomach in the first moments after finishing the book, I do think it is the best ending she could have given us. It shows us that Charlotte is building better habits and putting herself first so she can best care for girls like her. It shows us that Jamie is balancing his romanticism with reality. He’s not planning his life unrealistically into the future and getting his heart broken when he finds out Charlotte doesn’t want to fit that mold. They’re healthy. They’re always growing towards each other - even when they’re apart and growing into their own lives.
The weight of these books is so much on me. I know, I sound dramatic. I’ve just finished reading five minutes ago, so of course, the emotions are raw and on full display.
I want to write this so I’ll have something to look back on. I have dark periods sometimes in which it is so hard to remember anything that made me feel something. I hope I look back at this and remember that Charlotte and Jamie mean the world to me. They’ve made me joyful. They've made me cackle, sob, throw things around, get angry. They’ve confused me. They're a little bit mine now that the story is over.
When I was a teenager, this is a book that would have saved my life. It would have pulled me up out of my pit. Despite the sad moments.
Isn’t it weird that something that brought me grief can also bring me so much comfort and raise me up out of my hole? How on earth do books do that? And who would I be without them?
Poet. Reader. Lifelong Student.