Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin
St Martin’s Griffin, 2nd printing, 2005
Genre: chick lit, romance, pop lit, fiction lite
Synopsis & Review: Rachel White celebrates her thirtieth birthday by having a big party with her BFF Darcy Rhone. Beautiful Darcy, a NYC PR person, plans a bash at a prominent nightspot, inviting Rachel’s friend—and her own—and celebrates even harder than the birthday girl herself, stepping naturally into the spotlight as she always has. But when Darcy has a little too much to drink and goes home early, studious good girl Rachel hooks up with Darcy’s fiancé Dex. Rachel spends the summer juggling her old BFF and her new love, working, spending weekends in the Hamptons, and oh, helping Darcy plan her wedding. To Dex. She also spends a lot of time moping about Dex, and how he’s not yet left Darcy for her, and will he leave Darcy for her, and what they’ll do when/if Darcy finds out, and so on.
I was sick for a few days, and Eli picked up a nice stack of books for me at the library, including the entire Emily Giffin oeuvre. I noticed the books when we were picking up sundries at Target last week and the titles Something borrowed and Something blue caught my eye—as anything wedding-related is wont to do right now. I am only human. I powered through all four Sunday through Wednesday, but for some periods of unconsciousness and vomiting on Tuesday (sorry, but it’s the truth!). The end result was that I overdosed on the books; I like fluff as much as the next person, but too much all at one is like eating three deep-fried Twinkies.
The book had promise, particularly in the first chapter, an amusing retrospective of Rachel and Darcy’s lives, but I’m sorry to say that the novel didn’t live up to it. The other side of the story, that of the otherwise good girl finding herself in a squalid affair with her best friend’s fiancé is interesting, and sympathizing with the cheaters a novelty. And the exploration of toxic friendships between women, when deftly handled as Giffin usually manages, is both compelling and relevant. But her characters are ultimately too weak to support the narrative: Darcy is nearly a caricature of the chick-lit villainess, Dex is profoundly dull as a hero, and most disappointing of all, Rachel is callow and weak-willed, constantly accusing Darcy of being passive-aggressive (in her mind, at least)—and remains so throughout the novel. The lack of growth or change on her part is a huge disappointment, and by the (predictable) end of the novel most readers will be delighted to part ways with her at last.
Speaking of finales, the bait and switch Giffin pulls at the end of Something Borrowed is, in a word, cheap. Instead of leaving Darcy with a little dignity, she chooses to make her worse than Rachel and Dex. As it turns out, Darcy has cheated on Dex multiple times. And the whole summer while Rachel and Dex are pursuing their affair, she’s pursuing one with Marcus, Dex’s old college roommate and groomsman. Oh, and when Dex finally leaves Darcy, she’s also pregnant with Marcus’ child! Oh, so that mitigates Rachel and Dex’s guilt? They get each other, and they get off scott-free? I’m sorry, but that doesn’t work for me. The novel’s honesty—and it does have some—was lost when Giffin pulled that slick maneuver.
Other gripes: The novel is in the first person present tense, and it gets old fast; the best parts were all in the past. There is excessive name-dropping of brand names, clubs, restaurants, shops, etc., which will only serve to date the novel later. It kind of feels like it’s trying to hard to be S&tC.
There are some genuinely funny bits, and as I previously mentioned, Giffin does draw some very realistic relationships between friends, particularly women, but the novel is too shallow overall. It is an entertaining, fast read, perfectly satisfactory for the beach.
Cover: Baby pink, with a diamond solitaire for the middle o in “borrowed.” Eh.
I nod. Claire works out religiously and hasn’t touched fried food in years, but she is destined to be lumpy. She is redeemed, however, by impeccable grooming and expensive clothing. She’ll show up at the beach in a three-hundred-dollar one-piece with a matching sarong, a fancy hat, and designer glasses, and it will go a long way toward disguising an extra roll around her waist.
We make our way around the floor, searching the racks for acceptable suits. At one point, I notice that we have both selected a basic black Anne Klein bikini, If we both end up wanting it, Darcy will either insist thats he found it first or she’ll say that we can get the same one. Then she will proceed to look better in it all summer. No, thanks.
19 July – 20 July