Ciara's Reviews > Something Borrowed

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin
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Aug 04, 10

bookshelves: crummy-chick-lit, read-in-2010
Read in August, 2010

first, this isn't really what i would call "crummy" chick lit. & i would give it three-&-a-half stars if half-ratings were permitted.

the story is told from the perspective of rachel, a single 30-year-old new york city lawyer. the book opens at her surprise birthday party, throw by her best friend darcy. darcy is a few months younger, engaged to a handsome banker named dex, & has a cushy job working for a PR firm. rachel & darcy have been best friends since they were children.

predictably, darcy gets drunk at the party & dances on the bar, making herself the center of everyone's attention. rachel is used to darcy's self-centered shenanigans. she's has spent her entire life taking a backseat to darcy's quest for the limelight. the story starts percolating when darcy heads home, & dex invites rachel to go out for some late night bar-hopping. they're splitting a cab back to their respective apartments when suddenly they find themselves kissing. they go back to rachel's place & bone.

darcy calls in the morning, panicking because dex didn't come home. rachel is horrified by what she did, but is more disturbed by the fact that she doesn't feel especially guilty. dex spins darcy a story about having stayed out late with his best friend marcus & going for brunch after, to cover up his cheating behavior. both marcus & rachel go with it, & darcy buys it. darcy seems to find herself too attractive & exciting to seriously consider the possibility that anyone would ever cheat on her.

this leads to many ruminations on rachel's part about what a charmed life darcy leads. she's always been beautiful & confident & anything she's ever wanted has fallen into her lap, including her job & dex. rachel knew dex first. they met in law school. rachel introduced dex to darcy, initiating their romance. it never occurred to rachel that dex may have been interested in her. she decides that she needs to put her night with dex out of her mind...especially because she's supposed to be the maid of honor in dex & darcy's wedding at the end of the summer.

complicating matters is the fact that rachel, dex, & darcy are splitting a hamptons summer share with darcy's shallow PR lackey claire, rachel's colleague hillary, & the afore-mentioned marcus. so rachel & dex are going to be seeing quite a bit of each other over the summer. darcy obliviously passes on the news that marcus has expressed an interest in rachel. she offers to set them up, telling rachel to go for it because she's unlikely to do better. rachel agrees to a date, thinking that it's the first step in proving to herself that she's not hung up on what happened with dex.

things with marcus go okay, though they refrain from sleeping together or anything. their couple potential is the talk of the hamptons house, but rachel wonders if dex doesn't seem maybe a tiny bit jealous. she tells herself she's being ridiculous.

until dex tells rachel that he feels no guilt for what they did on the night of her birthday party. he starts sending hew sweet e-mails & spending lots of time on the phone with her. it's easy to pretend to darcy that he just has a lot of work to do & has to stay late at the office. dex comes by rachel's apartment one night, & they end up kissing. a few days later, they have sex again. rachel starts to wonder if maybe she doesn't have much stronger feelings for dex than she wants to admit...& although she still can't muster up too much guilt for her feelings, she's in a panic over what would happen if darcy found out her maid of honor was sleeping with the groom-to-be.

dex seems especially jealous of rachel's flirtations with marcus at the summer house one weekend, & rachel loses her shit completely at the beach watching dex & darcy frolic in the surf together. they have a huge fight that night at the bar, & back in the city, dex sends rachel two dozen roses to her office in apology. hillary sees them & wonders who they're from. one things leads to another, & rachel is forced to confess the affair to hillary. hillary is all in favor of it, but warns rachel that she needs to take a stand & be clear with dex about what she wants. if she really thinks she's in love with him, she has to ask him to call off the wedding. rachel is pretty terrified of this idea. after a lifetime of playing second fiddle to darcy, she can't imagine that dex would choose her instead.

finally rachel lays down the law & tells dex to call off the wedding or leave her alone. they don't talk for a week or two. dex shows up at rachel's apartment & is very apologetic, claims he'll always love her, but that he can't hurt darcy like that. rachel kicks him out & books a flight to england to visit her childhood friend ethan. ethan knows both rachel & darcy, & seems to have genuine affection for both of them, but makes clear to rachel that darcy has always worked hard to overshadow her & make her feel shitty. there's this kind of "mean girl"/girl jealousy element to their friendship that is actually written to be fairly complex. darcy would be an easy character to hate, & while i'm glad i don't have any friends like her (anymore), i didn't hate her. she seems to be genuine to herself, & it's obvious that she cares about her friends, even if she is self-absorbed & tactless a lot of the time.

one of ethan's friends sets rachel up a blind date in england, & rachel goes in an attempt to spur the "getting over dex" chapter of her life. when she flies back to new york, dex is waiting for her in the lobby of her building. he confesses that he missed her way too much while she was in england, & he's broken off the engagement. they go upstairs to bone.

mid-way through, the doorman buzzes to say darcy is on her way up. dex hides in the closet, & darcy tells rachel the wedding is off. she also confesses that she's been having an illicit affair with marcus, & is in fact pregnant with his baby. she intends to keep it & marry marcus. then she sees dex's watch on rachel's nightstand. she opens the cloest door to find a half-naked dex, who just heard every word of darcy's admission. he's pissed, but darcy is more pissed. she storms out & makes sure to call everyone in their circle to tell them about rachel & dex canoodling behind their backs. but rachel & dex don't really seem to care, because now they have each other.

given the plotline, i expected the girl jealousy angle to be writ large & in a really offensive way. like in shopaholic & baby, when rebecca is so jealous of her glamorous ob/gyn (her husband's college ex) & is always trying to show her up or compete with her in gross ways, & the ob/gyn competes right back & tries to steal rebecca's husband. that was chick lit girl hate of the ickiest kind & i hated reading it. so i kind of expected this book to be 300 pages of the same thing. but...it wasn't, really. it was a fairly realistic take on the difficulties of sustaining life-long friends, & the shit you will take from someone just because you've known them forever. i also didn't mind the "rachel chooses guy over best friend" angle. i have done the same thing, because i realized that the guy was better for my emotional health than the friend was, & that to relinquish the guy in the name of loyalty to the friend would only make me hate my friend. it's a complicated issue.

one complaint is that giffin had this somewhat irrtating habit of having a long block of dialogue & then just recapping the most interesting, salient parts of it with a POV report-back. like:
"what do you want for dinner?" dex asked.
"maybe chinese," i replied.
"scallion pancakes sound good."
"order me a soda."
& then he said he loved me.

that's not actually in the book, but that's what i'm talking about. there's all this "who cares" back & forth, followed up by an exchange that would have actually been worth seeing, but it's just summarized. why? i got the impression that maybe giffin doesn't like to write dialogue (even though hers is pretty realistic), so she'd just peter out before the scene was over.

i also thought the conclusion was both cliche & over-the-top. of course dex was waiting in the lobby. like we ever expected anything else. cliche! & then it wasn't just enough for darcy to admit that she's been cheating with dex's best friend--but that's she's pregnant with his child! what is this, a telenovela? ridiculous. though apparently there's a sequel that follows darcy's attempts to single motherhood. (what? you really thought marcus would step up to the plate?)
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