Sunday, May 15, 2011

Book 15 – Something Borrowed

By Emily Giffin

It might seem a little odd (and extreme) to go from an uber-masculine book like The Hunter to ultra-feminine trash like Something Borrowed. But hey, that’s how I roll. The only thing the two books have in common is they’re the type of books I do not normally seek out. It makes sense that I wouldn't normally read a Parker novel, but I'm also far from being a girly-girl. Admittedly there are rare moments when I succumb to my more feminine urges and read a chicklit book of the moment.

Our local thrift shop Chainon has been a treasure trove of dirt cheap books for me and Olman. The problem is that the English fiction shelf is also riddled with mainstream chicklit fare such as Eat Pray Love, Sex and the City, Twilight, The Nanny Diaries, The Princess Diaries, etc etc. So when I "happened" to read the blurb for Something Borrowed, I thought why not? The maid of honor ends up having an affair with the bride’s fiancé, and the blurbs made it sound like the situation could be portrayed with some measure of maturity and complexity. The the new movie starring Kate Hudson sounds pretty bad, but I thought maybe the book would surprise me with some interesting insights. At worst, it’ll be a throw away book, right?

Boy, was I dead wrong. I can be so naïve sometimes!

A quarter way through, I was already regretting getting this far, as the novel was turning out to be just another stupid, hackneyed romance. And the writing was absolutely horrid (no surprise there). But like the Twilight books, I just couldn’t stop. Like a terrible yet gripping soap opera, I had to find out what happens next! Still, there were so many things wrong with this book, I don’t know where to begin. But since a Reading Group Guide was conveniently provided at the end of the book to provoke thoughtful discussion, let’s just use what we’ve got.

Reading Group Guide

1. What do you think was the real impetus behind Rachel’s decision to sleep with Dex after her birthday party? Was it about her desire to break out of her good girl persona? Was it about a long-standing resentment toward Darcy? Or was it both?

Maybe it was simply that Dex was hot and he was there? And Rachel was turning thirty, probably hadn’t had sex in months and was super horny?

The question is misguided because this Rachel chick lacks some serious self-awareness, which translates as she doesn’t know WTF she’s doing. From how it was described, Rachel acted (and responded) on impulse, something which she doesn’t normally do. It was far from a decisive action. Deep down she knew what a pathetic loser she was by letting her best friend take her man and this was the only chance she had to get inside Dex’s pants.

2. How do you view Dex? How would you describe Dex and Rachel’s relationship? What drew them together? Did you root for them to be together? Do you think they have true love?

Dex is the stereotypical Mr Dreamboat whose beauty and desirability is constantly mentioned throughout the book. You know this is the stuff of fantasy when Mr Dreamboat is secretly in love with a 30 year old woman with average looks and intelligence who actually hates herself (with reason). Coupled with the fact that he is named Dex is enough to draw guffaws. The “relationship” between Dex and Rachel yields the same reaction. At one point when they are deep enough into their affair, Rachel summons enough balls to try to end it, but then she gets an email from Dex with the subject line “You”. It basically starts like this:

You are an amazing person, and I don’t know where the feelings that you give me came from. What I do know is that I am completely and utterly into you and I want time to freeze so I can be with you the time and not have to think of anything else at all. I like literally everything about you, including the way your face looks when my cock is in your mouth…

Ok, I confess the last 8 words were actually my own, otherwise the guffaws will take over. But seriously. If a guy does write something like “I like literally everything about you including the way your face looks”, chances are likely he will also be thinking about his dick in your mouth.

Re: true love. Well, let’s take a look at Rachel’s take on “true love” at the end of the novel when she finally gets Dex and makes dinner for him for the very first time (as she doesn’t cook):

Only then do I acknowledge that what I am feeling might actually be true happiness. Even joy. Over the past several days… it has crossed my mind that the key to happiness should not be found in a man. That an independent, strong woman should feel fulfilled and whole on her own. Those things might be true. And without Dex in my life, I like to think I could have somehow found contentment. But the truth is, I feel freer with Dex than I ever did when I was single. I feel more myself with him than without. Maybe true love does that.

Wow, do grown women really eat up this shite? If I get this right, Rachel believes that true love is not about two completely independent people sharing a life together, but two people who are missing something in their sad single lives and only find true happiness in each other. True love means that Dex completes Rachel. And Rachel completes Dex. My, the perfect recipe for a codependant relationship, if I ever saw one. (It is interesting to compare Rachel's take on happiness to Cassandra Mortmain's take on happiness - whose do you think is more genuine? But it's not fair to compare since I do not put Emily Giffin in the same league as Dodi Smith). But hey, this book is marketed as a contemporary urban fairy tale and this is precisely what it’s delivering. What did you expect, an update of Jane Eyre?

3. Is anything about Rachel and Darcy’s friendship genuine? Do you believe it has changed over time?

No sane rational woman with any measure of self-respect would remain best friends with a self-serving narcissist like Darcy for so many years. I've known people in these sorts of friendships/relationships and you eventually have to break up with them after a year or two at most because you realize that they are unrealistically demanding and possessive. In other words, they SUCK.

The book does an ok job portraying why someone with major self-esteem issues like Rachel would be friends with someone like Darcy, but again, I was looking for a story that was more about how a decent person would betray her best friend, who happens to also be a decent person, and the ramifications of that kind of fallout; not a story about a goody-goody girl who ends up betraying her friend because she stupidly let her friend have her man and this friend turned out to be a backstabbing bitch in the end so that the goody-goody girl gets a kind of get out of jail free card. That neat ending stuff does not interest me.

4. Do you think Dex and Darcy would have married if it weren’t for Dex’s affair with Rachel? Why did he stay with Darcy for so long?

Although Darcy is shallow, self-centred and high maintenance, she is also smoking hot, fun and charismatic. That is enough for most guys, even someone like Dex. Oh, but Dex is supposedly secretly in love with Rachel, who is average-looking, boring and passive. So maybe that is why Dex has stayed with Darcy for so long, so he could have Rachel close by. Right.

I think Dex ended up with Rachel in the end because he probably realized that he could be with a girl like Rachel and still get with babes like Darcy, because Rachel will take it. Whereas if Dex married Darcy, and he cheats on her, Darcy is the kind of girl who would cut off his dick in a heartbeat.

5. How did Rachel’s flawed self-image contribute to the dilemma that she faces? What do you see as her greatest weakness?

Rachel’s greatest weakness is her total lameness and passivity. It is a total drag to read a book narrated in first person by someone like Rachel. The fact that Rachel lacks self-esteem and insight causes her to let her boss treat her like his personal slave, be loyal to someone like Darcy, and let Darcy have the love of her life. Rachel’s issues causes her life to suck. But what really sucks is having to listen to Rachel whine and fret about her problems for most of the novel.

6. Was Rachel’s moral dilemma made easier because of Darcy’s personality? Would she have acted on her attraction to Dex if Darcy were a different kind of person and friend? If Rachel had fallen in love with Julian, would she have pursued the same course of action? How does Rachel rationalize her affair with Dex?

The novel seems to support the idea that it’s okay to cheat on your best friend or lover if she turns out to be a selfish, backstabbing bitch. There was never really a moral dilemma that Rachel had to face, except her feelings of guilt, which she rationalizes like any insecure person in that situation who has never truly lived. Also, Rachel would not have fallen in love with Julian because he listens to The Barenaked Ladies (gag). She and Dex are obviously meant for each other because they share a deep love of Bruce Springsteen (Darcy, on the other hand, is a big Bon Jovi fan).

7. What risks does Rachel take when she pursues her relationship with Dex? What is the biggest moment of risk for her? How does Rachel grow and change in the novel?

WTF? Rachel never took any risk. She just finally made an ultimatum to Dex and then took off to London. The novel made it clear that the only risk was Rachel's friendship with Darcy, who conveniently turned out to be a villain at the end. No big loss there. Except that Rachel still missed her fun, bitchy friend! What a loser. As for Rachel growing and changing, let’s look at the blurb which mislead this reader so:

As the wedding date draws near, events spiral out of control, and Rachel knows she must make a choice between her heart and conscience. In so doing, she discovers that the lines between right and wrong can be blurry, endings aren't always neat, and sometimes you have to risk everything to be true to yourself.

So did Rachel actually remain true to herself? What does that mean really, in the author's thinking? If it means Rachel achieving some self-realization and growing as a person, then hell no. Darcy got her comeuppance but never learned her lesson because Rachel never confronted Darcy about what a terrible friend she was for all those years. Rachel got her man in the end, which is what the main goal of the book was really about. Yet we don’t have a sense whether Rachel had gained any self-esteem or respect. Oh wait, Rachel did learn how to
make dinner for her new boyfriend in the end. That’s something, right?

So you could say that Rachel did become true to herself: she became liberated from her unhealthy friendship with Darcy and found contentment in her new role as Dex’s subservient girlfriend!

8. Disloyalty is a major theme in this novel. How differently do men and women view cheating on a friend? Why is Darcy so indignant when she catches Dex and Rachel together when she has been having an affair of her own?

Because Darcy can't imagine why a super hot guy like Dex would cheat on her with an unattractive, gutless loser like Rachel.

9. Under what circumstances is it justified to choose love over friendship? How important is it for women to stick together? Have you ever been in a friendship like Darcy and Rachel’s?

The novel justifies love over friendship if your best friend turns out to be a backstabbing bitch. Of course it is important for women to develop strong friendships but I do not believe that is the book's message. I have never been stupid enough to be in a friendship like Darcy and Rachel's.

10. This novel is told from Rachel’s perspective. How do you think Darcy would tell the same story? How do you think she would describe Rachel? How do you think she views their friendship?

See answer to 5. I don’t mind reading books about a heroine with low self-esteem written in the first person, as long as she is interesting and has something to say. But this Rachel character is none of these things. She is really a pathetic loser with no backbone, substance or appeal. I would have an even harder time reading a whole novel told from the POV of Darcy in the sequel
Something Blue (which focuses on Darcy's struggles to cope with the fallout of her engagement to Dex and her friendship with Rachel). Dear God. Not even if you paid me.

Something Borrowed was truly one of the worst books I have read. EVER. Something will have to be borrowed because I won't get back the time I wasted reading this piece of crap. It actually made me kind of hate womankind and feel some anger and embarrassment for my gender because this was a bestseller and from what reviews I could find, it seemed every woman loved this book and would recommend it to their friends. At least the Twilight books were kind of fun, goofy and action-packed but this was just a horrible reading experience. After finishing Something Borrowed, I considered immediately reading another Parker book just to wash the taste of tacky chicklit from my mouth. Then I realized there was an even better antidote….

1 comment:

OlmanFeelyus said...

That is a terrible feeling when you are about a quarter of the way through a book and suddenly really, really want to stop reading it, but know you won't and that you just have to slog through the terribleness.

Great review. Books like these are bad for the world.