Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Swapping Lives Review
After Heart Shaped Box, I needed something super easy and light. And I'm on spring break, so it was the perfect time for a girlie book. I'm picky about "chick lit", whatever that might mean. I want something light and fun but not stupid. I prefer Jennifer Weiner books above all else with Sophie Kinsella as a close second. Weiner's books are smarter and deeper but Kinsella's are just super fun. I'm so excited for the release of her newest book, Wedding Night, in a few weeks.
Anyway, in college at the height of the chick lit explosion I'd read two of Jane Green's books, Jemina J and Mr. Maybe. I loved Jemina J and actually read it a bunch of times but Mr. Maybe was a bit too cheesy. I just came across both while putting together books for a donation from my attic. So I was familiar with Jane Green. I also LOVED The Holiday, the Kate Winslet/Cameron Diaz movie. Like seriously loved. As cheesy and improbable as it was, I just adored the idea of switching lives... or maybe just Kate Winslet's gorgeous little cottage in the snowy countryside of England. So obviously a Jane Green book about women switching lives really appealed to me.
Swapping Lives follows two women: Vicky Townsley and Amber Wilson. Vicky is the features editor of Poise! magazine (I kept hoping Jenna Rink would show up) in London. She is 35, single and lives alone in an adorable flat. She is jealous of her brother and sister-in-law and their country house and adorable children. She wants that married life for herself but judging by the two romances she has in the novel, she clearly does not have very good taste in men. On the other side of the Atlantic, Amber is also 35, happily married to Richard, fabulously wealthy, living in a McMansion in Connecticut and busy being a "Desperate Housewife" (clearly this book came out when the show was on). Amber is a disengaged mother of two young children who spends all of her time trying to on up the other wealthy, suburban moms at their League meetings, which are supposed to be about charity but of course end up being about who is better than who or who has better stuff (clothes, etc.) than the other women.
Vicky ends up accidentally inspiring her boss Janelle to create the Swapping Lives contest and after meeting with a few different English women, Amber is chosen (her husband mistakenly bought her the British magazine one day). It takes about 60% of the book before the swap actually happens during the time the phrases "the grass is greener" and "keeping up with the Joneses" are mentioned a few too many times. To the reader the answer is obvious: Amber is dissatisfied with her life. She wants more purpose like a job, which is why she thrives at working at the magazine in Vicky's place. Vicky, on the other hand, needs to meet a really nice man instead of the douches she keeps dating. See problem solved!
The book was very cute and an easy read - predictable but still fun. It's a good beach/vacation read, on par with Sophie Kinsella. I might turn to Jane Green down the line for another breezy novel when I'm in the mood.
GRIPES: There were a few elements of the book that were a bit annoying. First off, there were two characters named Deborah, one a friend of Vicky's and one Amber's best friend. Why was that necessary? It was just confusing, especially since Amber's friend was English. I kept thinking that the timing was different that I thought and that Vicky's friend Deborah moved to the US. Unnecessary! (SPOILERS AHEAD): At the end of the book, Vicky learns that Amber's husband Richard was laid off six months ago, which is a little nuts since he kept lying about being at work all that time. And sometimes claimed he had late meetings. What was he doing in all that time?! Also when Amber learns about this, she supports Richard in finding a small business to run, one where she will also be able to work. They pick a small working orchard/farm near Albany. Was there every any mention that either of these two could run a farm? Do they know anything about caring for animals or tending to an orchard? I mean it's a romantic idea but really? Neither of them seemed remotely concerned about their new lifestyle change. But I guess that's what I get for reading chick lit!
Buy it at amazon and Barnes & Noble