Two recent reads, both books that I had high hopes for, were just not as snazzerific as I’d expected.
Expectation by Anna Hope
Triangles, trios, triangulation… Being at the ‘top’ or being part of the steady base… In terms of relationships, I find trios fascinating, which is why I couldn’t go past Anna Hope’s story about three friends – Hannah, Cate and Lissa.
Hannah and Cate met at high school. Hannah and Lissa met at university. Hannah has something Lissa wants (a husband). Cate has something Hannah wants (a baby). Alliances shift between the three and loyalties are tested – who said that triangles are the ‘most stable’ of shapes?
The story moves between the 1990s when the women are living together in East London, and ten years later when they are struggling with unfulfilled dreams and plans.
There are some terrific scenes when the women are younger – lazy Sundays and killer hangovers in their share house, and impulsive love affairs. Their laissez-faire attitude toward feminism was particularly interesting and very much resonated –
The seminar is called Feminisms. It is not full. There is a general feeling, in the popular culture, that feminism has done its work. It is the era of the Spice Girls. Of the ladette. Lissa, the daughter of a feminist, has taken it for granted that she is a feminist too. A wholly unexamined position.
Hope explores the ‘fumbling of the feminist baton’ through the women’s flailing careers, faltering relationships and attitudes toward motherhood. But while all the ingredients are there, the story falls short. Hope avoids picking apart the uglier emotions – envy, shame, guilt – the stuff that drives friendship stories, and instead, delivers safe plot turns.
The key message is about the importance of old friendships – ‘You must keep hold of your friendships… The women. They’re the only thing that will save you in the end’. Unfortunately, it’s diluted as the story winds to a safe conclusion (although, I was left wondering if there is such a thing as a ‘conclusion’ when a friendship has been badly damaged).
2.5/5 I think I was expecting something more ambitious.
I received my copy of Expectation from the publisher, Random House UK, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
I have very mixed feelings about Elizabeth Gilbert’s work. Loathed Eat Pray Love (and it was a rare did-not-finish for me). Raved about The Signature of All Things. Feel not much at all about her latest, City of Girls. Scratch that, I did feel something when I was reading – bored.
By rights, Gilbert’s romp through the 1940s New York theatre scene should be glorious – the ingredients for glamour and drama are there. But it isn’t. The story is flat, lacks emotional depth and not much happens (apart from tracking the bed-hopping of the main character, Vivian Morris).
The plot is constructed around an incident involving Vivian, where her morals are called into question. The incident grows in importance as the story continues but really, it’s all too flimsy to demonstrate the advertised message of this book – that we should find love and pleasure where we can, and make no apologies for it.
2/5 This book is not badly written, it’s just long and boring.