In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner
|In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner|
|Genre: Women's Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: It might look like chick lit but it's better than that. There's a good plot and better than average characterisation in a story about three generations of a dysfunctional family.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 432||Date: January 2003|
|Publisher: Pocket Books|
I would never have bought this book with its cover of feet and girly shoes but it came bundled with a couple of other books that I wanted to read and it eventually came to the top of the pile. I so nearly missed a treat and it made me wonder if Jennifer Weiner's publishers are making a mistake by having her books look so much like chick lit.
The heroine of the book is Rose Feller. She's thirty, a lawyer and is in love with Jim Danvers, a senior partner in her law firm. There is a cloud on the horizon though and it comes in the shape of her sister, Maggie, who is the complete antithesis of Rose. Maggie is slim and beautiful, where Rose is, er, rounded. She's educationally-challenged, street-wise and has no sense of right and wrong. She steals from anyone with a casual arrogance and when Rose is forced to allow Maggie to share her flat she finds that Maggie "borrows" her clothes and shoes.
It's a good story, set in New York and Florida. The girls share a tragedy in their past - the early death of their mother in a traffic accident and the remarriage of their father to a less-than-suitable woman they call the step-monster. There's a history of Rose always looking after her younger and less-able sister despite the fact that Maggie is generally less than grateful for the fact. The relationship between the sisters is skilfully drawn and there was never a point when I thought that it was other than believable, no matter what depths Maggie sank to. It's the story of the breakdown of several relationships and how they were rebuilt in different forms. There's a lot of depth to the story: in fact there are quite a few stories in the book, all skilfully brought together.
Characterisation is good although the women are better than the men. I didn't really believe in Jim Danvers, the living proof that some men have a brain and a penis but lack the blood supply to run both at the same time. The character is just a little too superficial, but he's the exception. The story involves three generations of the same family - there's the grandmother who was shunned after the death of her daughter and who has cut herself off from most relationships with a feeling of guilt that she has done so little for Rose and Maggie. The break with the family came at the insistence of Rose and Maggie's father, Michael, who's a weak man. His remarriage to Sydelle (the step-monster) was a matter of convenience. Sydelle is a relatively minor character, but she's still a completely believable. I loved the stories of her own perfect daughter, always referred to as My Marcia.
The writing is excellent. It's tight and flows along easily through humour and heartbreak. There's little, if anything, that's superfluous. It's not a book you'll devour quickly. I'm quite a fast reader, but I still enjoyed the book over several evenings and never felt that my interest was flagging. The narrative switches from character to character, neatly keeping each story going. This appears to have been achieved effortlessly, but great skill is needed to make the changes appear seamless. I never lost sight of a character or wondered who someone was when they reappeared.
This is Jennifer Weiner's second book. I read her first - "Good in Bed" some time ago. It too had a chick-lit marketing but deserved better. There are small links between the two books - the same law firm appears in both and Rose Feller meets Cannie Shapiro, the heroine of the earlier book, by accident. In Her Shoes isn't a sequel, though and there is nothing lost (or gained) by reading them in a particular order. If I've one minor criticism to make it's that the books resemble each other in that we have the chubby heroine of Jewish descent who finds true love in an unlikely place in both books. I hope Jennifer Weiner will try something a little different the next time around.
If this book appeals to you then you might also enjoy Carrie Fisher's Delusions of Grandma, although In Her Shoes has the better plot.
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