I think maybe I just don’t like “Chick Lit”. I didn’t like the two books I read by Curtis Sittenfeld, and I didn’t really like this one.
It’s not that it’s bad. It’s just not what I’m looking for. I found the action in the story to be limited, and often not very interesting. The main way in which I engaged with the characters was to feel frustrated with Ellen for her continued insistence not to be honest with her husband, her sister, her friend, her ex, herself…anybody. It just got tedious. She just seemed whiny to me, and a whiny main character isn’t all that compelling. My kids whine, and I love them, but not because of their whining. There’s more to them than their whining. I couldn’t really say the same about Ellen.
Speaking of which, I never felt convinced that the main character’s name was Ellen. She didn’t seem like an Ellen to me and Giffin didn’t really manage to help her grow into her name. Giffin dropped names throughout the novel, as though deeper meaning could piggyback into her story via the significance of a name. But simply saying, “Tribeca” or “Astoria” or “Mellow Mushroom,” or having the characters discuss Elizabeth Smart in a passing way doesn’t give the story more significance. On the contrary, as far as Elizabeth Smart goes, I thought this casual mention of a horrible ordeal endured by a living young woman was distasteful and only served to solidify my impression of the characters—all of the characters—as superficial and shallow and basically not people I would want to know in real life.
In addition, the book was written in present tense, something I strongly dislike. I consider it, often, to be a device employed for the purpose of bringing a sense of urgency and tension to a novel. But if that tension couldn’t exist in the past tense, then present tense alone isn’t going to suffice.
All in all, I just found the book to be flat. At one point I thought, Well, it seems like this book is almost done. But then I found that I was only about halfway through, and I felt disappointed that I still had that much more to read. My husband suggested that I just call it quits and move on to another book. I didn’t dislike it that strongly. It’s not even an active dislike at all, just a lack of “like.” Like plain Cream of Wheat. Nothing to offend, but nothing to love.
I think this could be decent airplane reading, though, and it does address issues of infidelity and the way that sometimes we can confuse a nostalgia for the past for a longing for a change in the present. I just think it could have been done better.