Thursday, December 3, 2009

Book Review: Jemima J (2000) by Jane Green

This book was November's selection for my online book club, Sistahood of the Reading Bellas. For those of you who participate on SplitCoast Stampers, join us in the Stamping Bella forum!

This fun and easy-to-read book is dubbed, “a novel about ugly ducklings and swans”. Green uses an interesting but sometimes confusing technique of switching between first person (protagonist) and first person (author) points of view to tell the story of Jemima, an overweight journalist living in London. The story really takes off when Jemima explores internet dating and meets a gorgeous suitor from LA. Through crash dieting and manic work-outs, Jemima J becomes the svelte and sexy JJ in a matter of months. The concept of fate vs. coincidence vs. calculated risk is tossed around and confronted on Jemima’s journey to slimness and California.

Jemima herself, besides being fat, is also smart and talented. Green wants us to sympathize with her, but she sometimes comes across as shallow and condescending, even as she insists she’s not. For example, Jemima describes her two dazzling roommates as “completely inconsequential”. These two clich├ęd characters are joined by Jemima’s best friend Geraldine who is at once beautiful, honest, and unlucky in love, even though she can pick up a guy any night of the week. The men of the story are handsome, successful, and prone to inducing obtuseness in Jemima. Ben is a forthright news editor and Brad is the owner of a California-based fitness center who is hiding a secret that will crush Jemima in the end. Or does it?

For this American reader, the British customs and colloquialisms were an entertaining part of the book. The story was amusing and had the requisite happy ending. The means by which we arrive there, however, are somewhat dubious- JJ’s transformation is unrealistic, Brad’s secret is absurd, and Ben’s path to reunite with Jemima is filled with comic slip-ups. Overall a decent book, however, you may feel let down if you have already read Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner. Weiner’s smart, overweight journalist Cannie Shapiro is more likable and suffers a greater tragedy that has us rooting for her.

Next review: The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

1 comment:

  1. I love Jennifer Weiner, because she elevates "Chick Lit" to a whole other level. You can tell she really thinks about her characters.


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