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This is a review of the 2006 book "If I were you" by Julia Llewellyn. I picked up this book on readitswapit website swapping a book with a fellow member.
A bit about the story
The book focuses on the friendship between Natasha and Sophie, who met at school and continue to be friends in their thirties, both living in London. They are both really different types of people, and there's a bit of healthy rivalry between them to be successful in life with men and relationships and careers.
Basically each of them wants what the other's got - or seems to have. This doesn't get in the way of what is essentially a great friendship. When they need help, they are there for each other and you can tell they both care deeply for each other.
Natasha is career minded, with a £100K plus salary and a posh apartment but she just can't seem to get a boyfriend. When she does, he belongs to someone else and she tries to justify this to herself by seeing him in secret.
Sophie plods along as a PA, working in a laid back newspaper department. She spends a lot of time planning her dream wedding, and will settle for the first thing in trousers that will be able to keep her to a high standard of living. She's a willing and talented cook and deep down, a lonely person who craves the lively company of others.
Both girls feel let down by their respective families, and have difficult relationships with their mothers and siblings. Except Sophie's step brother Marcus whom both Sophie and Natasha have a good relationship with.
What this book taught me
You simply can't guess what goes on behind closed doors and although a relationship may look glossy and perfect to those looking in, there are often deep problems running within.
People's lives and fortunes soar and dip and what may seem a given one day may collapse at any moment. Sometimes, the disasters can be turned into fantastic opportunities, say to change a career or use the quality time to go travelling or invest in a relationship.
Money can't buy happiness, and a £2500 dress may look fantastic but if you don't have the right occasion to wear it, it stays hanging sadly in the wardrobe (get it on ebay!!)... I felt sorry for Olly a bit, in that it's clear Sophie is using him for his money and she should not have took a watch off him that was worth a grand.
What did I really think
I think this book actually covered a lot of ground and some sensitive issues, such as eptopic pregnancy. It wasn't ground breaking and it didn't enthrall me but I could appreciate the content as a reader.
Too much too soon
I thought the first chapter rushed through the relationships too quickly and I was left trying to get my head around whose stepbrother Marcus was and whose mum was called Rita and looked like Joan Collins. The subsequent moving on of the parents to new partners confused me a bit more and it took a few chapters to get Natasha and Sophie straight in my head. The time leap from school to present day was fine and needed to happen to set the context in which they were all presently living.
I liked this book enough to finish it fairly quickly. It didn't blow me away and the men in the book were all a bit rubbish and none of them appealed that much in my opinion. I thought we could have had a bit more detail on Natasha's role at the terribly titled Rollercoaster TV - for her salary I'd have expected her job to be a bit more difficult but she seemed to get away with plenty of time off work and there wasn't much depth to it.
Would I recommend, yes, if you wanted a light and uncomplicated read but I wouldn't rave about this book particularly.
Although I used to be a great reader of a wide variety of different books at school, as I have got older my reading tastes have become much more limited and nowadays chick lit makes up about 80% of my bookshelf. With this in mind, 'If I were you' seemed to fit this genre perfectly and after reading the book over 3 days I wasn't disappointed.
I chose this book simply because it resembled the novels that I normally enjoy, the two women carrying handbags on the front of the cover a giveaway that the story wouldn't be too dark or harrowing. On the back cover the paperback book is priced at £6.99, although on Amazon you can get it for £5.99, or even cheaper if you buy a used copy. This may be a little more than people are used to paying for a girly read, however it's worth it in my opinion, not least because the novel is thick enough to last you over a weeks holiday if you're not a constant reader like me.
The most important characters
Natasha: One of the two main characters, Natasha is a career minded woman who pretends not to need a man in her life. Working for a high profile television company, she seems to have everything, however she is constantly envious of best friend Sophie's seemingly perfect life.
Sophie: The other main character, Sophie is more concerned with being a domestic goddess and starting up a family than her career prospects. Stunningly gorgeous, she is a favourite with the men and envied by best friend Natasha, however her life isn't as perfect as it seems and her desperate and needy attitude towards men often makes her miserable. Probably the most likeable character as the reader is given an insight into her feelings and emotions and sympathises with her desire to be a wife and mother.
Andy: Sophie's boyfriend at the start of the book. Kind and generous, Andy doesn't live up to Sophie's hopes of marriage when he refuses to propose to her.
Alistair: Married love interest of Natasha, fobs her off with promises of committment. The least likeable character for me as you just know that he will always be unfaithful and will never change.
Olly: Very rich and successful. Starts off as Sophie's friend but becomes a lot more. Olly is pompous and socially insecure, unless at a posh dinner or ball.
Lainey and Marcus: A couple who are good friends of both Natasha and Sophie. Marcus used to be Sophie's stepbrother and they are still close. The couple marry at the start of the book and the reader is taken through the ups and downs of their marriage.
So much happens in the book that it's hard to describe the plot without giving too much away but here is a brief overview:
The novel follows the two lives of both girls as they struggle with various problems and situations. The main plot revolves around their love lives as they experience drama after drama.
Natasha's story is centred around her relationship with Alistair and her constant attempts to make him fully hers. There are many points in the book where she feels that she has succeeded in doing this, but once a love rat, always a love rat and it soon becomes apparent that the relationship is going nowhere.
Sophie's main storylines also centre around her relationships and involve her realising that certain partnerships will never work. She battles with the dilemma of whether being with someone because they can look after you and treat you well isn't always enough and by the end of the novel she has learned alot about love and herself as a person.
What I liked about this book
The main thing that I liked about 'If I were you' was that I found it really easy to relate to the two main characters and what they were going through. Although they seemed to have alot of dramas in their lives their stories were never unrealistic and always very believable. After researching Julia Llewellyn Smith I found out that much of the plot and some aspects of the characters are based on her own experiences and this is very apparent in her writing.
I really liked the fact that the plot was so varied and contained lots of twists that kept me intrigued throughout. I also felt that the ending was very effective as, without giving too much away, the author fast forwarded a few months to represent the change in the lives of the characters and I felt that this was a much more prominent ending than dragging out the stories to the bitter end.
Although there are some quite serious dramas in the plot, there is also a lighthearted tone and the witty attitudes of both Sophie and Natasha, coupled with the very funny way in which the author represents certain situations often made me laugh-out-loud. For this reason I would really recommend this book as a light-hearted read, maybe on holiday or just when you want to chill out with a good book.
What I didn't like (not much I have to say!)
From a female perspective I didn't really like the fact that the two main character's lives were centred around settling down and getting married. I'm all for relationships but it seemed like they couldn't function without men and I felt that a bit more girl power was needed to show that women don't need men to be happy.
I also found it a bit frustrating when the characters made certain decisions that you just know will end in tears. This made some parts of it predictable, however the unpredictable twists made up for this.
Overall I'd really recommend this book. It's mainly aimed at women so I don't really think men would appreciate it but i really enjoyed reading 'If I were you' and just wish that there was a sequel!
There aren't many books in this world that really inspire me, but this book did in so many ways! It is way more than a 'chick book'.
The story is based on two characters, Natasha and Sophie. Both girls are so different, with Natasha who has an established and successful career working for 'Rollercoaster TV' and Sophie who is in a dead end relationship dreaming of life as a perfect housewife. Both characters are secretly envious of each others lives and this causes an akward friction in storylines between them both which ends when they end up reversing roles.
I think the story is so successful as women of all ages and backgrounds can relate to one of the characters and journey with them throughout the book with familiarity. It is so well written and explores so many storylines. Although some themes are unpredicted, the characters stay continuous which makes the suprises more thrilling.
If I Were You is a book by Julia Llewellyn Smith.
It's about two girls, Natasha and Sophie, who are best friends.
Natasha is a career girl with a great job and a lovely flat. Sophie is in a long term relationship with a great man. Natasha and Sophie have been best friends since childhood, but they've always been jealous of the other - Natasha believes that Sophie's the attractive one with all the men interested in her. Sophie believes that Natasha's the intelligent one with the great career. The book follows both their lives and their feelings about each other's lives and shows the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Natasha's longing to meet a man and have a relationship, which Sophie has but isn't happy with - Sophie wants to have enough money to live as she pleases, which Natasha has but it isn't enough.
A great read, a bit frustrating at times as you want each girl to make different decisions to those they do make, but an overall good read.