Wednesday 6 January 2010

Love the One You're With - Emily Giffin

In the fourth novel by Emily Giffin, Love the One You're With, we meet Ellen, who has been married to Andy for 100 days when she runs into Leo - the one who got away. We explore the back story of Ellen and Leo, who had an amazingly intense relationship that went awry and then ended abruptly at his instigation. Despite the fact that Ellen loves her husband dearly and is best friends with Margot, his sister, she finds herself keeping it secret that she has met up with Leo. When he gets in contact to offer her a brilliant photography assignment, Ellen finds herself tempted by more than just the offer of work. From there we see through Ellen's eyes as she wavers between the perfect life and wonderful husband on one hand, and wondering 'what if?' about her past relationship with Leo.

I have read all of Giffin's novels and by now I know what to expect. The stories come from a first person perspective and concern women in a relationship dilemma. It is much like sitting down over coffee with a best friend and hearing about her woes - the writing is comfortable and the novels offer a gentle perspective on the various problems that can inflict partnerships. The characters are usually somewhat cliched, and some suffer from being one dimensional as well, but Giffin has a warm voice and invites you to feel sympathy for the situation of the main characters. Here as well, it was hard to conceive that Ellen would end up with anyone but the man she eventually chooses - this would be too subversive for a Giffin book.

Here I could identify easily with Ellen - anyone who has had a past relationship end with little explanation and still feels rogue feelings for that person will understand how she got caught up in contacting Leo again when he came back into her life. Giffin explores the ideas of the grass being greener - how those who fall into a rut can see another person or relationship as being preferable, rather than dealing with the problems that exist. I enjoyed Giffin's commentary on how the money her husband earns can be more of a hindrance to Ellen's life than a blessing.

I loved Ellen's enthusiasm for photography and the way that this both led the plot and provided poetic passages that lifted Giffin's writing above that of other 'chick lit' authors. I particularly enjoyed hearing about the shots that she took at Coney Island, and could actually imagine them from the descriptions.

So, this novel was much as I expected and a diverting read on a rainy afternoon, but certainly nothing that would challenge the intellect. Enjoyable and fluffy.

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