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Is it ok to settle for second best?
The Next Best Thing - Sarah Long
Member Name: sassypat456
The Next Best Thing - Sarah Long
Advantages: Readable, good characters
Disadvantages: Lack of plot, unoriginal
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!
Summary: A easy read, but nothing new