Review of Something Borrowed

While the right mood can often find me shamelessly watching a chick flick, I’m not really one to read super girly books , and by “super girly,” I mean books that fail the Bechdel Test at every turn.  But I liked the movie version of this book enough to check out the original source.

In Emily Giffin’s book, chronic good-girl Rachel White, a young attorney based in Manhattan, celebrates her thirtieth birthday in the first chapter. “I realize thirty is just a number,” she says. “That you’re only as old as you feel and all of that. I also realize that in the grand scheme of things, thirty is still young. But it’s not that young […] The feeling I have reminds me of New Year’s Eve, when the countdown is coming and I’m not quite sure whether to grab the camera or just live in the moment.” After accepting drink after shot from her hard-partying best friend from childhood, Darcy, things begin to get a little blurry. Rachel and Dex, her friend from law school and Darcy’s fiancé, stay behind the rest of the partiers for one more drink, and on the cab ride home, they’re suddenly kissing. And then they’re suddenly having sex in Rachel’s apartment. Oops.

As the September wedding date approaches, Rachel has to figure out what to do. Continue to see Dex, hoping he’ll break up with her best friend and be with her (and probably cause her to lose Darcy), or do  the right thing and play her part as the faithful best friend and maid of honor and lose the love of her life.

Subconsciously, I had an idea of what these sorts of girly books would be like, and Something Borrowed falls into that category. Discussions about men are on almost every page. There’s a lot of kissing and sex (though, thankfully, nothing romance novel-worthy graphic.) The writing’s not as good as most of the books I read, but it’s an enjoyable light read.

One of the book’s shortcomings is Giffin’s early attempts to link Rachel’s panicked deiberations with her law school training, as she mentally defends her case to a jury. I thought that this was a great way of showing how logical Rachel is in the rest of her life and that Giffin would carry it through the entire novel, but the comparison disappeared until the end of the novel, and then it seemed weak and forced.

Giffin’s characters are relatable and likable. While Rachel is doing something questionable, we can see how much she truly loves Dex and how hard she still tries to be a good friend to Darcy. Her co-worker and friend Hillary is delightfully blunt and realistic in her urging that Rachel do something about the situation, and I fully believe that Rachel and her London-dwelling friend Ethan have been friends since elementary school . Marcus, the guy Darcy sets Rachel up with, is intelligent, witty, and an all-around good guy (not the slightly gross ladies’ man as he is in the movie.) I did question some of Giffin’s characterization though, mostly the inclusion of Ethan. Again, because of the movie, I have a soft spot for Ethan, who takes the place of Hillary in his advice giving and being present in NYC, as well as still being Rachel’s childhood friend. But had I not seen the movie first, I think that I would have been much more lukewarm about him. As a character, he is friendly and believable, but despite the existence of international phone plans, he’s too far away to be significant to Rachel’s story, and if I didn’t care about him so much before I read the book, I would have wondered why he was a character at all.

I also questioned the nature of Rachel and Dex’s relationship. Before the two of them start making out in the back of a cab, we hear nothing of any feelings for him, and until after they have sex, Rachel doesn’t say anything about even a little crush. But then, a few chapters in, Rachel gushes about how deep and serious her feelings for Dex have been since always, going all the way back to their first semester of law school and all the beautiful, hinting moments they had together their entire time in school. Dex also shows no attraction- and barely any connection at all- to Rachel until a few chapters in when he suddenly declares that he loves her.

Something Borrowed is not a perfect book, but it delivers what its intended audience wants: forbidden romance and questions of friendship and self. It is not a challenging read by any means, but it is enjoyable. However, and I have only said this twice before: the movie is better.

Choice quotes:

I tell myself there will be time to ponder tomorrow. Right now I will have fun. It’s the sort of thing that a disciplined person can simply decide.

I look up from my menu and glance at Darcy, worried that she will be able to see everything on my face. But she is oblivious. My mom always says that I wear my emotions on my sleeve, but unless Darcy wants to borrow the outfit, she doesn’t see a thing.

I smile and say hello, wondering if Jose recognized Dex from past visits with Darcy. I hope he doesn’t. It’s not just my parents from whom I want approval. I even want it from my doorman.

It is the way I have lived my entire life: avoiding regret at any cost. Being good no matter what. Good student. Good daughter. Good friend. And yet I am struck by the sudden realization that regret cuts two ways. I might also regret sacrificing myself, my own desires, for Darcy’s sake, in the name of friendship, in the name of being a good person […] I would be forced to live with “What if” forever.

“So what about you, Rachel?” Julian asks again, his dark eyes probing.
It is a common question during law-firm interviews, right up there with “Why did you decide to go to law school?” at which point you give the pat answer about the pursuit of justice, when what you are really thing is Because I’m a type-A high achiever with no idea what else to do; I would have gone to med school, but blood makes me squeamish.

Posted on November 12, 2012, in Books, Rachel, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Does your blog have a contact page? I’m having a tough time locating it but, I’d like to send you an email. I’ve got some ideas for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great website and I look forward to seeing it improve over time.

  2. I actually just said a movie was better than a book in my review of One for the Money. That’s unusual for me too and in my case, I think it’s because I’m more likely to be looking for a light movie than a light read 🙂

    • This is only the third book I’ve ever said was worse than the movie, the other two being Harriet the Spy and The Devil Wears Prada. I agree- a light movie is often better than a light read in these cases.

  1. Pingback: Monday Musings | Doing Dewey

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