Friday, January 13, 2012

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin — 352 pgs

Rachel White has always lived in the shadow of her best friend, Darcy, and when she’s forced to admit it, Darcy is the kind of friend who is perfectly comfortable stealing Rachel’s thunder. Darcy seems to have the perfect life: a glamorous job that rakes in the bucks, a great face and figure, and a handsome and sensitive fiancee named Dex. Rachel, on the other hand, is working insane hours at a law firm and hasn’t had a serious relationship for many years. Then, on the eve of her thirtieth birthday, a drunken encounter between Rachel and Dex causes the balance to shift between her and Darcy. Though Rachel is wracked with guilt over her indiscretion with Dex, she can’t help but feel that her fling with him is more than one illicit night of pleasure between them. Rachel is surprised when Dex seems to agree, and so the two begin to embark on a secret relationship right under the nose of the smug and contemptuous Darcy. As Rachel struggles between right and wrong, her feelings for Dex continue to grow, but it’s her refusal to push the issue that keeps the two tangled in a web of deceit. What is Rachel to do? Though Darcy is the frenemy that she’s known and shared so much with for so many years, Rachel’s feelings for Dex are unlike anything she’s ever experienced before, and the feelings seem to be mutual. Now the wedding is fast approaching and Rachel and Dex must decide whether or not to make a stand or to go back to the way things were with Darcy none the wiser. But just when all has been decided, a huge development takes place that changes everything. Can Rachel hold on to Dex and Darcy? In this tale of secret love and friendly contempt, Emily Giffin shares the story of Rachel White, the plain girl who gambles it all on a chance at lasting love, stolen right from under her best friend’s nose.

I’m not generally in the habit of reading chick-lit books, but I had been hearing good things about Giffin’s writing. So when I was casting about for a good audio read, I took a chance with this one, thinking it would be a mite different from my usual reads. I was pleasantly surprised. The audio version was preformed very skillfully by Jennifer Wiltsie, who had a frank and involving voice that lent itself nicely to nuance and captured the restrained intensity of feeling that Rachel always found herself mired in. It was an audio title that was easy and pleasant to listen to, and I blew through it pretty quickly.

Okay, so I have to admit that I’m not crazy about stories that feature infidelity as their main focal point, but for some reason, Rachel’s plight really won me over. I think most of this had to do with Giffin’s skill at making Darcy, the fiancee and friend from hell, such a flaming bitch. Darcy wasn’t only obliquely competitive, she was snide about it, and her path to supremacy over her friends is paved with lies, self aggrandizement and shameless self promotion. Oh, yes, and she was also supremely whiny and co-dependant. The only thing that stretched credibility for me was the fact that Rachael hung around for so long and put up with this nonsense. Darcy was that friend that you always feel slightly miffed about having to actually hang out with; the type of woman who is so dominant and pushy that she edges every female out of the room with the force of her vindictiveness and ill-humor. But she depends on Rachel even as she competes with her, and does and says some incredibly mean things to everyone around her.

Please don’t misunderstand and think that I’m trying to say that if you’re a big enough bitch, you deserve to be cheated on, because that’s not what I’m saying at all. In a perfect world, infidelity wouldn’t exist and people would have the cojones to just be honest and admit that things aren’t working or that they’re attracted to someone else. But this isn’t usually the way it works, and when someone gets itchy pants, they usually go a-hunting, much to the dismay of their partners. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t condone infidelity, but in this case, I could very clearly see why it was happening. There were a lot of factors to consider, and resentment, jealousy and spite were just the tip of the iceberg. There were also issues related to missed opportunity, lies and misdirection, all from some very surprising corners. In this way, Giffin manages not only to be relevant, but also believable. Rachel is not a tart looking to steal away her best friend’s man. In fact, she’s more of an unexpected catalyst between Dex and Darcy, which is one of the things that made this book so involving.

As the illicit affair lengthens and becomes something a lot more serious, revelations about all three parties are made and it becomes clear that there’s no real winner or loser in this triangle. There’s a point when things begin to derail and everything takes off in its own direction, good intentions notwithstanding. Of course, there are also a handful of other characters that were also very realistic and played their roles to perfection, but really, the main intersection was between the two women that loved Dex and the complicated web that ensnared both of them. At this point I must say that Dex wasn’t your typical horndog, which I appreciated. He had morals and scruples but at times he was a little bit of a wuss. I liked him, for the most part, but wondered how he ever got into such a tangle with Darcy to begin with!

This was a pretty solid book that I enjoyed more than I expected to. I think if I were to rate it as a chick-lit title, I would have to say it was a little more serious and less flippant, which is one of the reasons I think I enjoyed it so much. I would also recommend this one on audio, because Jennifer Wiltsie embodies Rachel beautifully and believably, and the audio moves by at a nice clip. Though this book has not totally convinced me that I need to dive right in to this genre, it was a pleasant diversion and a nice light snack of a read. Recommended.

29 comments:

Jules said...

I've wanted to read her books for a long time. I'm not into chick-lit either so you made your point and I might give it a shot! Thanks!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This sounds good, but I'm wondering why Dex stayed engaged to Darcy, AND, how did Rachel find the time for this affair, AND of course, how it all turned out!

Wall-to-wall books said...

I love Chick-Lit!!! I have not yet read an Emily Giffin book. I have always wanted to!
I glad that you did at least enjoy it. I like your review and all the honesty and personal thoughts you put into it!

LOL - the word verification for me is - forties (I love it when it is an actual word)

Mrs Q Book Addict said...

I don't read a lot of chicklit but occassionally it's something I look for. I agree, I don't like stories that deal with infidelity. I'm glad you were able to like the book despite that fact. This sounds like a good read. Great review!

Darlene said...

I have only read one of her books and I really enjoyed it. I keep meaning to read the rest of them. I have heard a lot about this one and kind of shied away because of the infidelity factor but I think I'll end up reading it. I don't necessarily mind reading books dealing with infidelity but it never fails to upset me especially if it's between people who know each other well like best friends. Anyhow I'm glad you were pleasantly surprised by this one. I'm going to have to pick it up.

Trisha said...

Great review, but I just keep coming back to "flaming bitch"; it's one of my favorite phrases now. :)

Brooke said...

I haven't read these books because chicklit is also not something I read a ton, but my book club and I did go see the movie. We discussed at length how the infidelity made us feel as viewers and decided that despite hating the act of cheating, this particular instance didn't make us hate those involved - which we then proceeded to feel uneasy about. A great moral dilemma in a surprising 'chicklit' package. Fantastic review!

Audra said...

I've avoided this book because of the infidelity angle and the idea that it was supposed to be chick lit silliness about infidelity. I'm glad to see it's a little more serious and fairly realistic -- I've heard from a few people that the sequel -- from Darcy's viewpoint -- makes her rather sympathetic so Giffin sounds like a gifted storyteller!

Cath said...

I had some problems with this book, not the least of them being the one Rhapsody in Books brings up above. Also, the more I read the more I felt for Darcy! Rachel was super passive aggressive, in my mind.

However...I go back to this book over and over again, so that should tell you how I really feel.

Steph said...

If I had been blogging back when I read this book I think I would have written this exact review! I don't read tons of chick lit, nor do I like stories that feature infidelity (nothing could be less romantic!), but I thought this novel was wonderful. I think Giffin gave herself a huge obstacle to overcome and managed to do so with aplomb, because while it seems like the whole thing should be vile and reprehensible, she manages to make Rachel sympathetic.

That said, NEVER watch the movie. It is proof that Giffin is a huge part of the equation in terms of making this story successful... the movie is just horrid and unpleasant.

nomadreader said...

I read this one years ago (I picked it up on a whim at the library when it first came out, as it was prominently displayed on a local author shelf) and really enjoyed it. Since then, either I've stopped enjoying her books as much or her books aren't as good, but it's nice to know you still enjoyed this one. You should check out the sequel too: it's from Darcy's point of view. I figured I would hate it because she was a horrible person in this book, but surprisingly, I liked it!

mike draper said...

Very nice detailed review. You certainly told me enought to let me decide if I wanted to read this book.
Thanks.
Mike Draper

Cath said...

I agree with Steph about the movie! Ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh!

Jenners said...

I read another of her books where Rachel and Dex are side characters so I found this very interesting. Weirdly, the book I read also featured infidelity so this must be a common theme of hers. In that book (The Heart of the Matter) she managed to make both women seem understandable too. Great review.

bermudaonion said...

I was rather surprised to see this reviewed on your blog because I know it's not your typical fare. I'm glad to see it surprised you. Your review has made me curious about the book - I think I'd like to give it a try.

Jenny said...

I bought this book (with the cute movie tie-in cover) but I think I might go straight to the movie which also looks really good to me. I have hard others say surprisingly good things about the book as well though. I was curious about the author and started listening to Heart of the Matter narrated by Cynthia Nixon (who I love from Sex and the City) but I could not get through it. =( Not sure if it was the story, the narration, or both.

Sandy Nawrot said...

It is funny, because my friend Susan (who I walk with and who is my son's Godmother) was just telling me this week that she read this book as well. And basically said the same thing you did about the infidelity and the bitch. Have you seen the movie? It looked cute, and I heard that Giffin approved of it.

TheBookGirl said...

I don't read much chick lit, but I did see this movie last year and thought it was a cute diversion. Can I be totally superficial and say that I love the covers of these books -- we have many of these in the bookshop and they look so pretty lined up next to each other, lol.

Amy said...

This sounds like a better book than I expected. I have read very good things about Giffin's writing, too. I am a little puzzled, although, as to why Rachel was so concerned about her friendship with Darcy when things started up with Dex if Darcy is such an unkind, uncaring friend. And, in the same vein, why did Dex stayed engaged to Darcy? (The latter doesn't puzzle me as much since I've known several men who are willing to make their lives miserable long-term rather than risk a major confrontation breaking up with a woman they no longer love!)
I'm glad you enjoyed this audio. This is a book I may try listening to!

Amy said...

aw, I love this book! I think all your points are really good, I've often seen it used as an example where an author is able to make you sympathize with a character in a situation you would normally not.

Great review!

Harvee said...

I've read another novel where the best friend lands up with her girlfriend's former fiancee. This one intrigues me as having a similar plot.

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I love this book too! I was shocked when I read the sequel, Something Blue, to find that I ended up actually liking Darcy in that book! So you will be surprised (if you continue to read Giffin's books) by how skilled she is at making you like characters you want to hate.

Also, can I tell you how much I love that you used the word "cojones" in this review? Made my day.

Stacy at A Novel Source said...

this one sounds pretty darn good and i've actually avoided Giffin's books because i thought they would be too far into the chick-lit genre/drama. Every once in awhile i will succumb to the pull of chick-lit but i've always resisted her books for some reason...now i'm thinking i need to use my audible credit to download the audio version and give her a try

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

You've pointed me in the direction of a book I would have stayed away from, Heather. Thanks for making me see that this is not simple chick-lit, but a deeper look at life.

I'll take your advice on the wonderful narrator and look for SOMETHING BORROWED on audio.

A smart review that made me take a second look at a book/author I had dismissed :)

Amy said...

Glad to hear that you liked this change from your normal reading. I've read this and a few others by the author previously. The infidelity was the biggest issue to me as well - I could see why but yet...

Darlyn (Your Move, Dickens) said...

I always thought Rachel was just making excuses for Dex, but maybe I was too harsh on the two of them? The whole time I was reading this I just kept wishing that Dex would grow a backbone, but I did like their moments in law school. Your reviews makes me want to reread it. :)

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

I'm so happy to hear you enjoyed this one. I found it different than most chicklit, too, and though like you I could never excuse infidelity, Rachel really got to me.
Are you planning on reading the second book, Something Blue? I wouldn't say it is as good, but Darcy definitely redeems herself there.

Marg said...

I was actually disappointed with this book. I found most, if not all, the characters to be unlikable. Despite that, I still read the follow up book which I actually quite liked. Go figure!

Ellen said...

Chick lit is one of just a few genres I don't explore much, but I've been debating checking this book out since I saw the movie. I was (pleasantly) surprised by the narrative tack Giffins takes, getting the reader/viewer to sympathize with the woman having an affair with her best friend's SO. This sounds like a good one to break me into the genre a bit - also like it'll be a great break from some of the heavier reading I'm stuck with right now.

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