Wednesday, June 23, 2010

In Which Trai Reviews 'Something Borrowed'

Hello everyone! My reviews have been scarce lately due to many demands on my time, but I'm hoping to get back into full swing the next couple of days--I have a lot of books to read and that means I will definitely be sharing my opinions!

Also, some of you may have noticed I now have a shiny new layout. Blogger asked me to try their new editor and so I did, with a nice, flashy layout for summer. I figured it was high time for a change considering I've had the same layout since I started, and because I want the blog to be a little brighter. On to the review!

The Book: Something Borrowed

The Author: Emily Giffin

How I Found It: Shiri Appleby, a favorite actress of mine, recommended it to her fans via her Facebook page. I thought it sounded interesting once I read some reviews that said it was better than your average "chick lit" novel. This book and its sequel (Something Blue) are also being turned into a movie to be released next year.

The Review: Rachel White has always been the good girl. She follows the rules, keeps her head down, and sticks with her boring, thankless job at a Manhattan law office. All her life, she has been overshadowed by her best friend, the impossibly perfect Darcy Rhone. Over the years, Darcy has taken Rachel's grade school crush, her dream college, and a friend of Rachel's whom Rachel had liked in college. That friend is Dexter, to whom Darcy is now engaged.

When the book opens, it is the night before Rachel's 30th birthday, and Darcy is throwing her a party at a local bar--and stealing the whole show, which is typical behavior for her. When Darcy gets a little too drunk, she leaves, and most of the other partygoers do as well. Rachel and Dex are left alone, and decide to barhop for a little while longer. When they begin to head home, they kiss. The kissing escalates until Rachel finds herself having sex with Dex--the one man she can't have.

The next morning, Rachel and Dex are determined to put the indiscretion behind them, knowing it can't go any further. Rachel feels guilty for betraying her best friend, even if she knew Dex first and Darcy is sometimes horribly inconsiderate of her feelings. Quickly, however, Dex and Rachel's one night of passion develops into something more when they realize once is not enough. They never explored their feelings in law school, and they feel the need to explore them now. But Dex is still engaged to Darcy and Rachel has to keep up a sham romance of her own--so what happens when the illicit affair turns into love?

I will admit up front that while I couldn't entirely relate to the subject matter, I know what it's like to be jealous of a friend and even to like a friend's boyfriend, so I knew I'd probably enjoy this one, and I really did. It did have much more depth than the average chick lit novel and it was a perceptive look at friendship, betrayal, love, and self-awareness.

To start with, Rachel was a very relatable character to any person who's ever felt like second-best. Even Rachel's mother tends to sympathize with Darcy over her own daughter, and Rachel's affair with Dex can be seen as lashing out at Darcy. While Giffin does raise that possibility, she delves much deeper into the psychology of the situation by exploring how buried feelings can surface and how a person can be torn between loyalties to two different people.

Rachel is well-developed as a character and experiences a wide range of feelings. I particularly enjoyed how she tries to rationalize her feelings for Dex and about betraying Darcy--she has Rachel picture court proceedings in which she defends her actions, and her reasons are nearly all sound. Darcy was a complicated character to pull off--she had to be unlikable enough so that the reader roots for Rachel, but likable enough that the reader would understand why Rachel felt so torn about betraying her. I think there probably should have been a smidge more of sympathy for Darcy just to keep it balanced, but Giffin succeeded in presenting a self-interested character who still elicited sympathy in some ways from the reader and from Rachel.

Rachel's relationship with Dex was also written well. Despite the fact that they are having an affair, Giffin still manages to make the situation romantic. I did think it was a little too easy for Dex to get away with it considering he almost always used work as an excuse, but I suppose a close call in the early days would have ruined the suspense of whether or not Dex would call off the wedding. I also thought it was a little too easy for Rachel to let two people in her life know about the affair, and to have those two people so unsympathetic to Darcy that they wouldn't consider telling her.

Overall, though, the book is very much about the unexpected nature of love and friendship. Rachel and Darcy's friendship is portrayed realistically and almost every woman (or even any man) can probably recognize at least one similar friendship they've had in their lifetime. Rachel's guilt over betraying Darcy's trust is as palpable as her love for Dex. I felt the urge to share this book with the friend of mine whose boyfriend I used to like (she knows and we laugh about it) and any book that makes me feel that way is a winner for me. Highly recommended to fans of chick lit or well-written novels about love and friendship.

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