The Great Library Rundown, Part 2: Beach Reads

 

BeachReads

I don’t know about you, but my stack of books to take to the beach generally weighs more than my four-year-old. I’ve recently read three library books with beach potential; June approaches, so let’s assess, shall we?

IMG_6537Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes

Yes, I know I might be the last person on the continent to have read this tearjerker (soon to be a feature film), but then again, there was still a waitlist for it at my local library.

Synopsis: Louisa, a quirky young woman from a working-class family, gets a last-ditch job as a companion for Will, a young businessman and adventurer paralyzed in a car accident. When Louisa finds out Will’s plans for physician-assisted suicide, she determines to prove to him that life is still worth living, and in the process, she opens up her own horizons.

The good: I liked that Lou comes from a working-class family, and that the book doesn’t attempt to skate over the difficulties of job loss and living paycheck-to-paycheck. Lou and her sister Treena, a brilliant single mom, have an interesting relationship, combative and loving at the same time.

The not-so-good: I thought the pacing was off and the changes in perspective were annoying. I wish there’d been more balance in the depiction of life as a quadriplegic; Will is pretty damn miserable—despite his enormous financial advantages—but certainly not all quadriplegics feel the same way (there’s an attempt to show this through a fictitious message board, but why not introduce another character?).

Verdict: Depends entirely on your taste for tearjerkers.

Maestra, by L.S. HiltonIMG_6838

Judith Rashleigh is an assistant at a London auction house who becomes embroiled in intrigue after she’s unjustly fired from her job and ends up on the French Riviera, trying to pass as one of the rich and carefree. Sex and murder and art fraud shenanigans ensue.

[Sidebar here: Whoever did the marketing on this book is very good—from the cover to the deliberate comparisons to Fifty Shades of Grey and Gone Girl, they’ve tried very hard to make this a hit. Oh, and the book already has two planned sequels and a movie deal. Le sigh.]

The good: This book had so much potential—there’s one good twist, the bits about art and appraisal are fascinating (I wished the book had stayed more focused on the art world), and somewhere there’s some good material relating to young women’s righteous rage at being undervalued at work and treated like sex objects all the time.

The bad:  Well, let’s see: there’s fat-shaming (lots of it), gratuitous name-dropping of designer labels (this gets worse as the book goes on), unconvincing plot maneuvers, repetitive, humorless sex scenes that try too hard to shock readers . . . I could go on.

The verdict: Leave it at the library.

Eligible, by Curtis SittenfeldIMG_6864

Synopsis: In this modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice, the Bennet sisters are natives of Cincinnati. Liz and Jane, both approaching 40, are home from New York to care for their dad after his heart attack when they meet Chip Bingley (former contestant on a Bachelor-type show) and his haughty neurosurgeon friend, Darcy. You can take it from there, folks.

The good: Part of the fun of reading this was, for me, guessing how Ms. Sittenfeld would update Austen’s plot points for twenty-first-century readers (CrossFit makes an appearance, for example). Liz and Jane are pitch-perfect, I loved the choice of Cincinnati as setting, and I think the Bennets’ socioeconmic status makes sense. And the last chapter is a-mazing.

The not-so-good: I think the attempts to highlight race and LGBTQ issues were a good idea, but not taken far enough. There’s quite a bit of silliness at the end, which I could have done without.

Also, I’m a transplanted Ohioan, and good lord did this make me miss Graeter’s and Skyline.

The verdict: Not destined to be a classic, and not Curtis Sittenfeld’s best (I think the consensus points to American Wife), but 100% beachworthy.

What’s on your beach reading list this summer?

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28 thoughts on “The Great Library Rundown, Part 2: Beach Reads

  1. I think I’d like to read Eligible at some point, but really I’d rather read a couple of her other books first. Although, now I want to read that amazing last chapter…
    I enjoyed the format of this post! I will definitely be leaving Maestra at the library. And, I’d love to read a good novel about a quadriplegic who has learned to accept and make the best of his/her life. Someone should get on that!

    • I knew personally two quadriplegic people who did indeed get on with their lives and achieved a great many wonderful things; something about that novel just hit me the wrong way.

      Eligile is definitely a fun read, but I see why you’d want to start with the other books first 🙂

  2. I still have 3 months to make my beach read list, and I have a feeling that I will need every single day I can get. I’ve enjoyed Jojo Moyes in the past, and I think she is a good beach read pick.

  3. Excellent news re: Eligible. It’s winter in Australia, so I’m swapping ‘beach reads’ for ‘curl up and get cosy’ reads (both equally satisfying!).

  4. Can I ask if you’ve watched The Lizzie Bennet Diaries? It’s a webseries adaptation of Pride and Prejudice that starts a little slow but then becomes strangely addictive as you go. I’ve never loved a modern adaptation of a Jane Austen book so much, except of course Clueless, which is a damn treasure.

    Also as regards Me Before You — I had some issues with it, I have to say. One Plus One is my most favorite of Jojo Moyes’s books so far, if you liked the writing but weren’t wild about some of the plot elements (which is my situation).

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