New Year’s Reading Resolutions #18
Ever since university, Cassandra, Jasmine and Hannah have been the best of friends. But that friendship threatens to break apart when Jazz is arrested for the murder of her husband. David Studlands was a doctor who toured the world’s trouble spots treating the poor. He was also a philandering cad who had mortgaged the house out from under his wife and son to fund his research. Now he’s disappeared off a beach on the other side of the world, and Jazz’s ex-con toyboy has dumped her right in it. Desperate to prove her innocence, Jazz sends Cassie to tell her lawyer the whole story, from the disastrous twentieth anniversary dinner onwards. Along the way it’s not only Jazz’s relationship which suffers; Cassie and Hannah also see their marriages begin to fall apart. And whether Jazz gets off or not, their friendship may never be the same again.
I had high hopes for this book, but unfortunately they weren’t met. It was a good premise, but my interest soon flagged in the face of a whole lot of the characters gossiping about their marriages and sex lives. (Is this really what it’s like to be middle-aged and married? If so, I’m glad I’m perpetually single.) When Jazz found out just what her husband had been up to behind her back she got angry and bitter, as you would, but I quickly got fed up with her incessant bitchiness, which was directed not only at David but others as well. Hannah had little part to play in the first two-thirds of the book; and while there were a few genuine laughs, I didn’t find it that funny overall. The one-liners were laid on with a trowel, to the point where I thought, “Okay! I get it! You’re witty! Now can we please move on?” And Cassie was one of my pet literary peeves: the chick-lit wimp. She freely admitted she had no spine, agreed with whatever Jazz and Hannah said, even when they contradicted each other, and let her husband relegate all the housework to her. I began to wonder if there’s not some bizarre law of the universe preventing the creation of chick-lit heroines with backbones. (Then I remembered the fantastic Behaving Badly by Isobel Wolff, which suggests that there’s not.)
It did have its good points, though. There were some quite wonderful moments towards the end, when the various dastardly men and unscrupulous rivals (those still alive, at least) got their comeuppances. I particularly enjoyed the scene where Cassie confronted her boss and couldn’t help but be pleased for her (both because of the successful outcome, and because she discovered her spine). I also liked Jazz’s various ideas for, not so much committing murder, but increasing the risks in her husband’s already risky lifestyle (mis-sized bulletproof vest, for example). While for me it was only an average read, someone who’s had experience of the whole marriage-kids-middle age thing might like it and relate to it more.
I’d hate to write off an entire genre. So ... all recommendations of chick-lit books without wimpy main characters will be gratefully accepted.