chicfic is the new ladylit 

Here is my first BlogLily Summer Reading Program report.  Haha.  I am ahead of everyone else because I have the prototype program booklet thing in my hands. (Yours goes out this Friday.)  But then again, I am not actually competing for any of the prizes because that is not allowed.  It’s not allowed ever in any program of any kind, is it?  Still, in the interest of participating in all the fun, here is my review:

In Her ShoesJennifer Weiner.

I checked this out from the South Lake Tahoe Public Library because I am under the impression that this is women’s fiction, which is one of the categories of reads for the BL Summer Reading Program.  Why am I under this impression?  Because Jennifer Weiner eloquently and unapologetically says it is.  And she should know, because she wrote it.  Plus, she went to Princeton, and I think that gives her a little added authority, don’t you?  (You don’t?  Well, maybe you have a point.  By the time you’re in your thirties, your Ivy League credentials have aged into irrelevance.  And then all that matters is whether you can write a book that made me cry.)

Book made me laugh:  Yes.  Jennifer Weiner is funny.  No question.

Book made me cry:  It did!  It did!  I gave up all critical distance and gave myself completely up to the story, which is basically the tale of two sisters — one sensible and a size 14 (would that be Sense?) and one dyslexic and hot as hell (would that be Sensibility?)  One hurts the other.  Guess who?  (Yes that would be sensibility who does the hurting.) They wear the same size shoes (that would be the title).  One is a lawyer (that would be Sense.)  They must learn to get along, and they must also come to terms with their mother’s death early in their lives and the horrible fall out from that death.  It is a really fine plot.

Did I cringe at the writing?:  No.  Jennifer Weiner is a good writer.  She is clear and clever and a good plotter.  Whatever this is, it is not trash.

Did I learn something new about myself, about life, about people, about how fiction is put together?  No, I did not.

Did I expect to learn something new about myself, about life, about people, about how fiction is put together?  Not really.  Why must every book do this?  Jennifer Weiner did not set out to do this, so why should she be penalized for not accomplishing something she never even suggested she was going to do?

Is this a bad book?  No.  As I mentioned, I enjoyed it.  I like crying at stories when I know that everything is going to work out.  It’s like a movie where you know exactly what’s going to happen but the acting is good, the locations are lovely, the dialogue is sharp — you know you’re in good hands.

Is it a great book?  No.  Sense and Sensibility is a great book.  It is very difficult to write a great book and really I very much doubt a great one has yet been written this century.

Other books like this:  Well, I believe I have mentioned Sense and Sensibility which is also the story of two sisters who have to learn to love properly.  They do, however, get along through most of the book.  Another book this reminds me of is Cathleen Schine’s  The Three Weismanns of Westport, which I vaguely remember is modeled after Sense and Sensibility, although honestly I wouldn’t have realized that if the book jacket didn’t mention it.

14 thoughts on “ChicFic

  1. Absolutely – why should every book have to change your life? Reconciling you to the one you’ve got – or giving you a break from it – is often a darn sight more useful. This sounds like a fun read. Would you recommend the Cathleen Schine? I loved her early books and have toyed with getting this one but to no conclusion yet.

  2. I read a Jennifer Weiner book once: Good in Bed. I mostly read it because it was set in Philadelphia, and I like reading books set in Philadelphia. How was it? It was fine. I did not feel compelled to read any of her other books, though. I do continue to be very impressed that she chose to stick with her real last name, and if that is not her real last name, then I am more than impressed, I am intimidated. To use a name like that, you’ve got to have balls. (Oh, come on, I couldn’t resist.)

  3. A note to Sonja: If Jennifer were pronouncing her name correctly it would be like “whiner”, not the notorious sausage that has been in the news lately thanks to a certain Congressman. The sausage is spelled IE, not EI, and is pronounced “weener” or, if you are going to be a purist and have lived in Germany (which I am and have), it is pronounced “veener” as in the city of its birth, Vien (known to you as Vienna). Indeed, the Wiener (or Veener) is only one of over 200 types of German sausage, each of which is quite different, has its very own name and city of origin, and deserves to be sampled independently.

    But I agree: Like you, I will read almost any book or see any film set in Philadelphia, the city of my birth. Must be my Katherine Hepburn / Grace Kelly bias.

  4. PS to Lily: I like your question and answer review format! I think you have something there and I may shamelessly copy it in my reviews going forward, perhaps adding a question as I deem necessary.

  5. D — There are many things I like about you, and now I am going to add “knows her sausages” to my list. As for the Q&A format, I think it comes from feeling like I have to have someone to talk to before I can write anything. I imagine my questioner to be a real person, a sort of cross between Terri Gross and a tart friend who is not interested in hearing too much plot summary and really just wants to get down to it: did it make you cry?

    Sonje — I checked out two of her books, as a matter of fact, and one of them was difficult to read –I can’t remember what it was called, but it had to do with two friends who were complete opposites. One of them had been very fat and the other one very lovely in high school. I sensed that this book was headed into territory I didn’t want to explore, so I abandoned it. And I’m a little embarrassed to admit to you and Dorothy that I didn’t even realize that In Her Shoes was set in Philadelphia, but in my defense I should point out that a good 1/3 of it is set in a retirement community in Florida. As for Jennifer Weiner, her name is certainly hard to forget, and my impression from things I’ve seen her say in defense of her work is that she is a formidable woman.

    Litlove — Yes, do give the Weissmans a try. I liked it a lot and hope you will too. xo

  6. “Sense and Sensibility is a great book. It is very difficult to write a great book and really I very much doubt a great one has yet been written this century.”
    With so many writing now, how can it be that no great book has been written in the last decade?

    1. I’m extrapolating from the past. Look at the 19th century. How many great books out of all the many, many books were published in the 19th century. Wait. Maybe I’m wrong. But they wrote better books back then. Wait, maybe that’s wrong too.

      So, here’s a test: can you name a great book that was published in the last decade? I can’t. But maybe I just haven’t read it yet. Or maybe that person hasn’t died yet and been discovered.

      PS: I can’t leave comments on your blog. I think they’re in your spam filter — you should check.

      1. Yes, I sent you a message that your comments went to spam, from which I retrieved them. It was a sad sight!

        Sadly, everything that I’ve read during the past decade, written in the past decade, has been complete trash, but I did that on purpose.

        Gore Vidal has been saying for decades that the novel is dying and so it seems to me. Long gone are the days when we could look forward to the next book by Hemingway or Steinbeck or even J. D. Salinger. In fact, gone are the days of Bellow, Updike, Cheever, and Mailer (pardon my gender bias). But, and it’s a big but, this is not because the good novels aren’t being written – just listen to Maureen Corrigan enthuse – it’s because they aren’t being read. Speilberg and Tarentino and the like are the new cultural heroes.

        I remember saying something about the book I was writing to my shrink and he said, “Why are you writing a book? Nobody’s going to read it. Write something short.” And low, here I am, allowing myself 15 or 20 minutes per blog entry, max.

  7. I read “Good in Bed” (last month!) and understand how it won Weiner many Weiner-fans, a.k.a. Weenies. It didn’t have a strong forward drive, but it was full of heart and humor. One of my good friends says she enjoys it more every time she re-reads it. The experience is not un-like hanging out with a funny friend.

  8. Joe — And yet I persist. I like novels. I also like movies. I figure there are enough people for both. But it does make me think about what writers I look forward to reading. And there are still a few. Like you! (I have been obsessed with arts & crafts this weekend, but I see you have written almost a novella’s worth of 15-20 minute posts. You string enough of those together and you have a nice book of essays, you know.)

    Tamara — Exactly. I don’t think I’d re-read her, but I did like it very much.

    1. ” You string enough of those together and you have a nice book of essays, you know.”

      When that happens, get it published and claim your percentage. 🙂

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