I deliberately packed a bunch of easy, summertime books. Beach reads, as they're often called. But nothing new. Mostly just stuff I nabbed at the last minute from my local Goodwill.
Here's the roundup of what I made it through, from best to worst, in case you're interested in grabbing some beach reads of your own:
This book is, by far, the best and most respectable thing I read over the course of my week in the Bahamas. It’s much more of a literary novel than the other stuff I brought, and it’s far better written. Nathan got it for me for Christmas on the recommendation of Melissa Bank, one of my absolute favourite writers, but alas, it wasn’t up to Bank’s standard. Don’t get me wrong, the book was decent. Dave writes realistically and managed to capture some fundamental truths about romantic choices and first loves that were surprisingly touching. I even teared up a few times. But this isn’t a novel for everyone. It is, at times, a little boring. While the story’s history jumped back several years, the main action takes place over the course of one wedding weekend in Scarsdale. And while I know suburban life is a reality for many, I find it hard to relate. Their memories just aren’t my memories, if you know what I mean. And this books relies, in many ways, on readers who can empathize. Were I to pass it on, I'd give it to someone in her mid-to-late twenties who’s been in and out of at least one major relationship, but I’d also recommend that same person read Melissa Bank's books first.
Despite this book’s cover, this isn’t pure fluff. Sex and the City (the TV show) is, but the book that inspired it, like this book, isn't. It’s too complex, too cutting, really, to be lumped into the genre fiction category. It's a bit of a mystery that centres on the (largely very rich) inhabitants of one Manhattan residence. The characters have lots of money, posh jobs, and silly names (a Bushnell trademark). Is it realistic or believable? Not really. But neither is is predictable, at least until the last 100 pages or so, which is nice. I interviewed Bushnell a few years back and I was convinced that TV's Carrie Bradshaw did her wrong. Bradshaw is much less appealing, much less smart than the real Bushnell, who (though she sometimes uses words I'm not sure she understands) isn't a bad writer. I don't want to say that this book is literary, because it isn't. There’s a bit of scandal, a bit of sex, and plenty of petty jealously, as well as some exotic/fabulous bits about what it’s like to be super rich. And that’s all good fun. My evaluation is that it’s not high art, but it's not a terrible thing to take on holiday. It starts slow, so give it a bit of a chance to take hold.
I feel a bit sorry for Helen Fielding. There was really no way for her to follow Bridget Jones with a character who could possibly stand up. It was never going to happen. Olivia Joules is a very appealing lady, but I see why this book sort of bombed. The 007-style mystery/suspense/action storyline is just too out there. And Joules doesn’t have the “that could be me!” appeal that Jones’ has. She’s just too ridiculous. That said, this was a fun read. Fielding is a talented, smooth writer, which puts her head and shoulders above many so-called ‘women’s authors.' Protagonist Joules has, as the title suggests, an overactive imagination, which is not to say she’s unlikable. The only real problem with this book, considering what’s it’s attempting to do (which is entertain, not enlighten) is that it reads like a movie script. In fact, it would have made a much better film than it does a novel.
I really wanted to like this book. I grabbed it because, like so many people, I actually thought McLaughlin and Kraus’ first effort – The Nanny Diaries – was pretty enjoyable. This book, however, was much less so. It’s not bad, exactly, but neither is it very satisfying. Surprisingly, it raises a lot of interesting questions about third wave feminism, but the main character just isn’t very appealing, and the story merely grazes feminist and ethical issues that the authors would perhaps have done better to avoid in the first place. And most frustratingly, while the lead of The Nanny Diaries gets to vent some of her frustration in the end, this book’s heroine (who is literally named “Girl,” which is supposed to mean something it doesn’t quite succeed at meaning) fails to make any sort of difference at all. We leave her in much the same way we found her. (Older and wiser, of course, but not having made anything resembling a positive impact on the world.) It’s annoying. In The Nanny Diaries, you’re left with the hope that Nanny might have made some sort of difference to a bad situation, but with Girl, you’re sure she failed utterly. And that’s a serious bummer.
I hate using the word chick-lit. It's so offensive. Unfortunately, Weisberger's work is chick-lit in the sense that it's genre fiction that adheres to some pretty strict rules. (You know Weisberger. She wrote The Devil Wears Prada - a much better effort than anything she's done since.) The reason The Devil Wears Prada is so much better than Weisberger's subsequent works is, I think (and I hate to say it) Ana Wintour. A thinly veiled Ana Wintour is a better, more compelling character than anyone Weisberger's made up. The three women in this book are a hodgepodge of the semi-real, acting out scenarios I'm sure Weisberger's real life friends and neighbours will find familiar (which is to say, nicked) but their stories aren't at all cohesive. It's like Weisberger cherry picked a number of anecdotes from real life, and tried to cobble them together into a novel. It just doesn't work. The character's banal romantic and emotional entanglements and traumas don't ring true. All in all, this is a very light, only slightly enjoyable book, but it's not terrible if you're not looking for something memorable. In fact, I've already forgotten the plot.
This book was just awful. It was silly, badly written and badly done all around. Nonetheless, I finished it, in part because it was so easy to get through. Imagine your basic rom-com. Now turn the white leading lady into an Indian-American and throw in a dash of Bollywood and you’ve got Imaginary Men. To be fair, I enjoyed the way Banerjee used dialogue. She captured the way Indian families often speak to one another (which I'd say I know from first-hand experience) but there was little else about the book that was engaging. With a rom-com, you always know what’s coming, right? No matter how many barriers are thrown up between the romantic leads, you know how it’s going to turn out. Same here.