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The Next Best Thing - Sarah Long

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Genre: Fiction / Author: Sarah Long / Edition: Export Ed / Paperback / 400 Pages / Book is published 2005-03 by Century

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    2 Reviews
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      23.11.2010 15:33
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      A easy read, but nothing new

      Jane is a freelance translator, struggling to maintain a work/life balance while constantly attending to the needs (and whims) of her husband Will, and their daughter Liberty. Every so often, in true escapist fashion, Jane spends an indulgent afternoon at the cinema, and it's here she meets laid-back Rupert who makes her question her own life, values and aspirations...

      Rupert just happens to be engaged to her best friend Lydia, who seems to only want him for her own selfish purposes, but Jane can see beyond Rupert's financial status, to the sensitive and unmaterialistic man he is.

      Throughout the book not much actually happens. It's very strange because I'm not sure if that is actually a positive or negative in this case. Instead of concentrating on complicated plots, this novel seems to focus much more on the characters themselves and their individual strengths and flaws.

      Jane is our primary character and she comes across as an intelligent, likeable woman who is torn between her own needs, and what she determines is best for her family. As a woman who is managing somehow to juggle work, parenting and being a dutiful wife, she is perhaps a character many women will be able to identify with, even though she may also infuriate many readers with her tolerance of the insufferable Will.

      As Jane's selfish husband, Will is an annoying, self-righteous fool who has very few good points. Yes he loves his daughter but he also shirks many parenting responsibilities and essentially puts himself first every time. He is rude and obnoxious and seems to ebb away at Jane's confidence with his cutting comments and overbearing personality.

      Lydia is another unlikeable character as she is a female version of Will. She has very little respect for Jane and enjoys feeling superior since she has career sucess, no children holding her back, and the good looks and confidence to take what she wants from life, regardless of other people.

      Meanwhile Rupert comes across as a bit of a wimp, but not an offensive one. He struggles to do the right thing and thinks he should be lucky to have Lydia in his life, despite her being an unsuitable match. As a keen gardener and reluctant professional he has much more in common with Jane.

      And so the story goes. Our characters seem to flit from one social engagement to another, never truly making each other happy, and Rupert and Jane's worlds keep coliding. But can Jane discard her mummy guilt and find happiness, and will Rupert realise that Lydia is a blatent gold digger?

      I have to say I have no real opinions on this book one way or the other. On one hand I enjoyed the exploration of the characters, but on the other I would have preferred more of a plot and felt the book dragged on a bit with nothing much to keep you going. Yet I finished it so it can't have been bad as I am impatient with novels, often failing to finish particulalrly boring ones.

      This book is ok, and while its unoriginal and predictable, it is a nice, easy read and is well-written. There is a depth to the characters, yet none of them are perfect, and only Rupert and Jane are likeable enough for the reader to care what happens to them. There just seems to be something missing and I can't work out if it is a plot, or something not quite gelling with the characters, or something else I haven't managed to put my finger on!

      This may appear to be a short book review or one which is a little vague, but there really is not much else to say since there is very little in the way of storylines, and without giving away what happens, I can say little more.

      All in all it is a fairly enjoyable read but I am pleased I got it out of the library rather than buying it, as I certainly won't read it again!

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      • More +
        04.05.2009 13:44
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        Pretty good book

        ***The Plot***
        Jane is a freelance translator who juggles deadlines with taking care of daughter Liberty and the home that she shares with her and partner Will. On one of her escapist trips to the cinema, she bumps into Rupert, who is also beginning to wonder whether life is really as good as he can hope for. He is engaged to Lydia, who coincidentally is an old friend of Jane's. As Jane and Rupert's paths continue to cross, will either of them realise that settling for the next best thing isn't always the best option?

        The plot probably sounds dull from my quick description of it, but the author does manage to make a fairly good book out of it. At almost 400 pages, it is slightly too long for me and does tend to drag on a bit.

        ***The Characters***
        Jane is a likeable character and I felt quite sorry for her as Will clearly made no effort to pull his weight. He also had a very high opinion of himself and was generally quite an annoying and unlikeable character. I think a lot of female readers would be able to emphasise with Jane as she struggles to balance her home-work life and draw clear boundaries between the two.

        Rupert is another quite likeable character. He is pretty much the polar opposite of Will. Lydia is similar to Will in that she is selfish and always puts herself first. Both characters quickly get irritating and I was glad to see that things occurred in the way that they did at the end of the book as I felt that both got their comeuppance, albeit in different ways.

        ***Writing Style***
        It is written in the third person, but there are still plenty of insights into the thoughts of the four main characters. Because of this, it is quite easy to get a handle on them and feel involved or annoyed at them.

        ***Overall Thoughts***
        This is definitely a chick lit book so I would only recommend it if you enjoy reading in this genre. For me, the book is realistic, which you don't always find in chick lit novels. Jane's work-at-home set-up seems realistic in its chaos. Although I don't have children, I do work from home and I'm all too aware of how distracting that can be! Without putting too many stereotypes on the table, I'm sure that selfish gold-diggers like Lydia definitely do exist also.

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