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finder. A cigarette in the left hand when it should be in the right, a prematurely melted ice cube in a half-empty glass of...
Meredith is a continuity girl. Her job is to make sure that the details in every scene on a film shoot are consistent. She is the error catcher. The needle- n-the-haystack
Copyright © 2009 Leah McLaren.
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The Hamilton Spectator Review
The Continuity Girl ~ By Leah McLaren
Reviewed by Murray Tong

Like good farce, chick-lit seizes perfectionists by the scruff (the more perfectionist the better) and flings them into the boilingest cauldron of mayhem its Prada-clad proponents can conjure.

That's why, cracking Leah McLaren's first novel, The Continuity Girl, I was already getting sympathy pains for its heroine, Meredith Moore. She's a script supervisor, which entails whispering continuity errors into the director's ear: khakis that change to corduroys from one scene to the next, or a scar on the left cheek that should be on the right. With a detail-oriented vocation like that, I was envisioning a tornado carrying her off to a hellish movie set with Ed Wood directing.

Meredith wakes up on her 35th birthday and decides she wants a baby. Convinced it's her last chance, she sets off on a farcical odyssey from Toronto to London to Italy and back, where she sizes up potential fathers, comes to terms with her eccentric mother, and cultivates the art of movie-star partying.

Need I say it, this is chick-lit with all its professional and personal crises, labyrinthine misunderstandings and stock characters firmly planted where the plot requires them.

The Continuity Girl is Sex and the City via Jane Austen, complete with a trio of excruciatingly unsuitable suitors, à la Austen's Pride and Prejudice, who clumsily woo Meredith with comic results. But while the novel aims mainly for zaniness, McLaren allows her characters -- from a bizarre falconer to a smug gynecologist ("flirting with your gyno -- that is so David Cronenberg," a friend helpfully observes) -- more patience and empathy than I would have expected.

The falconer, for example, enters the frame as weak-willed and clingy, but the author explores his troubled familial relationships and presents a surprisingly poignant portrait of British entitlement culture.

And Meredith. She's a little too plucky and adorable, but wasn't Elizabeth Bennett? She unsentimentally calls herself a "sperm bandit," but instead of a raging succubus, McLaren has created an intelligent, resourceful woman who's always the calm centre of the hurricane, and is now "sick to death of being the responsible one."

Amidst the havoc, Meredith has a gravity that makes her believable and sympathetic, and by the end, darn it, I really did want her to find happiness.

Leah McLaren writes The Globe and Mail's popular style column, which isn't noted for its substance -- what style column is? -- but she plumbs literary depths beyond the newspaper margins and shows she can sustain a fast-paced, multi-character story, while surrendering none of her hipster cred.

Still, as they say, deep down it's shallow. The Continuity Girl doesn't aim too high above its slapstick origins, but it hits the chick-lit bullseye admirably. It's a fun book with enough laughs to keep us reading and enough gravity to make us care how it ends.