Mar. 9th, 2010

tispity: Vanquisher character from Torchlight (Default)
Something I'm Not by Lucy Beresford

As I floss my teeth, I think about how life is all about choice. What on earth do you do if you suspect you've made the wrong choice? Or if the decisions you made were the right ones, but based on misconceptions?'

I'm not much in to chick-lit type reads but I picked up this one because the subject matter struck a chord with me. The 'I' of the title is Amber, an upper-middle-class Londoner enjoying what seems a happy marriage and a great career. The 'something' she's not is a mother. Yes, this book - quite bravely in many ways - deals with the issue of women who choose not to have children and the difficulties they face in justifying and upholding this decision as more and more of their friends and relatives start families of their own. Amber seems happy with her life and with her and her husband's mutual decision not to reproduce but as more of her close-knit circle of friends embrace parenthood - even Dylan, her gay best friend begins discussing adoption, she feels her world and her certainty come crashing down around her. It's a subject that's close to my heart because, as many of you will know, I've been struggling recently with the increasing realisation of my own apparent lack of maternal ambition. So I thought I might relate to the characters in this book quite well and that reading it might help me feel less conflicted but to be honest, although it was well plotted and a fairly enjoyable read, Beresford didn't really deliver on any of the factors that motivated me to pick up her book in the first place.

First up, the things I did like about this: as I've said, it was a brave subject to tackle and I love the way Beresford subverts conventions of a more typical chick-lit novel which would probably see Amber finally emerge as an ecstatic new mother by the end of the book. This doesn't happen (though it does to one of her friends) but Beresford seems to have a good time implying, for much of the book, that it will only to finally turn that convention on its head. Also the characters were well crafted and sparky - if somewhat predictable in their diversity (the gay guy, the fragile single mum, the career girl, the parents of five who want more etc) and a few of the minor incidents made me laugh. But overall Something I'm Not disappointed me: I couldn't relate to Amber at all: firstly because she doesn't like pets (!?!) and secondly because her incredibly privileged lifestyle was just too alien for me to fathom (who embraces redundancy as a welcome chance to "rest and sort out my head?") The biggest problem I had with the book, however, was how rushed it felt: so many plot strands are introduced but although Amber finds closure with her motherhood issues, pretty much nothing else in the novel is resolved at all satisfactorily, it's all just left hanging. Most unsettlingly, a massive breach of trust occurs between Amber and her husband part way through the story but then pretty much no mention is made of this incident after the fact; as if pretending it didn't happen makes it all OK. That implication rather undermines many of the positive messages that the book has to share about the tremendous value of friendship and the way that no woman should not be forced to conform to social expectation if that feels wrong for her. So that's a shame really because those are damn important messages.

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tispity: Vanquisher character from Torchlight (Default)
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September 2010

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