Friday, April 3, 2009

Light Fare

A man and a woman have been best friends since grade school. They both reach their
30th birthday completely unattached, each with a less-than-proud history of meaningless, disposable relationships and/or one-night-stands. They make a bet to work harder on finding someone decent to settle down with: first one to enter into a relationship that has a plausible chance of becoming long-term owes the other 100 pounds (the book's set in London). Quick, who do you think they'll end up with?

Well, you're right. Lisa Jewell, in Thirtynothing, employs the most shopworn, predictable plot ever. There have been a bajillion movies, books and TV shows that use this same plot. I think they continue to succeed or fail based on the strength of the two main characters. Jewell's Nadine and Digby are interesting folks. Nadine is an eclectic professional photographer who works for "Lad mags" (I guess Maxim would be a close American cognate) and lives in an apartment with candy-foil wallpaper. Digby, who's called Dig, is an A&R man for an independent record label whose apartment is a haven of clean lines and anal-rententiveness that Jeff Lewis himself would die for.

Their relationship over the years, has been a tragedy of timing. First Dig got a girlfriend in high school, which shattered his closeness with Nadine. They went to different schools prior to college, finally got back together for one weekend before Nadine left for college...and got a boyfriend of her own. After that, they were just good friends for a decade. Until their thirtieth birthdays, and it became time to get serious. Both of their exes explode back on the scene in the course of the novel, but ultimately prove little more than a diversion to Dig and Deen's true destiny.

This novel is typically everything I dislike in a book. Lame plot peppered with ridiculous coincidences and characters who would act much differently in real life, and a denoument to gag on. But for some reason, I loved this book. It's not great literature by anyone's standards. None of Jewell's books are, although the other two I've read had much more originality. But I liked Dig and Deen. I liked Dig's self-centered gorgeous ex Delilah. I liked Deen's slimy con-man ex Phil. And in an era where there's bad news virtually everywhere you look, sometimes it's nice to read a simple novel where everyone winds up happy.

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