Thursday, July 19, 2012

So, I Read A Book Called "Jemima J: A Novel About Ugly Ducklings and Swans" ...

Cover art for the American
Paperback Version of the Novel
I tend to read a lot more in the summer, because I spend time at the pool, the beach, and because most of the spectacularly intellectually devoid television programming I watch is in re-run status.  Last week, I read a book called "Jemima J: A Novel About Ugly Ducklings and Swans" by Jane Green.

This post contains book spoilers.

The book is all about poor, pitiable Jemima Jones, a British journalist who is 5'7" and 200+  pounds.   It talks about how almost everyone she ever meets is either rude or condescending to her, how she can't find a boyfriend, and the only decent man she knows only sees her as a friend.  It makes her life sound like hell on earth.  Then, Jemima meets Brad, a "fit, handsome tanned Californian" on the internet, lies about her appearance, and then goes on a crusade to become the woman she pretends to be.  She goes to California and everyone loves her because now she's thin.

Surprise, surprise, Brad is a dick and uses her.  He's actually fucking his (fat!) secretary, Jenny.  ...Because Jenny is fat like his mother.  ...but Brad NEEDS Jemima as his arm candy.  ...I'm not even going to get into all the reasons I hate that plot point.

After dumping Brad, Jemima runs into her old friend, the one who never noticed her in "that way" before.  He falls in love with her because suddenly, she's attractive.  They get married, she puts some weight back on (but not TOO much, only about 20 pounds, putting her at a healthy 130/140 lbs) and lives happily ever after.

In case you can't tell, I didn't really care for the book.  I thought, while it was funny at times, it sent a lot of negative messages.  The biggest one is that larger people are unhappy.  That you can't be happy unless your thin.

I have to tell you, a lot of thin people are unhappy, too.  And a lot of larger people are happy.  I'm sure that people who are so morbidly obese they can't leave their homes aren't happy...  But as a large person, I have to tell you, I'm fairly happy.  It's clear that the writer, Jane Green, has no idea what it's like to be overweight. The way she describes Jemima's lifestyle, you'd expect her to be over three hundred pounds. Yes, 200lbs at 5'7" is not slim, not at all, but it's not the picture you initially paint of Jemima in your head.

Most people Jemima's size don't have the problems as described by Jemima.  They don't break chairs they sit in, they don't have trouble fitting through doors.  Basically, it reads like Jane Green just doesn't like people who are overweight.

And then, Jemima decides to lose weight.  For a man.  If she wanted to do it for herself, or for her health, that'd be one thing.  But the message is: Men will only love you if you're thin.

Maybe it just strikes a cord with me because I am over weight.  But I did some reading over Amazon's user reviews of the book, and found that a lot people feel the same way.

The book also makes it seem like a woman isn't whole without a man.  While I have a boyfriend, and I felt pretty lonely for a long time before I met him, I wouldn't say I wasn't whole.  Maybe it was not the authors intent, but it that's what it feels like.  It's insulting.

The book switches around a lot from third person to first person, which while helpful in moving the "plot" along, can be kind of confusing, especially when you have four different points of view in as many paragraphs.  There's also an awful lot of telling, and very little showing.  That is, a character will say "Oh, you're so funny." but it's never demonstrated WHY they are funny... or kind, or lovable.

Basically, I didn't like the book very much.  It's a self described "beach read" and has little substance.  The plot is contrived, and the happy ending seems very much obligatory.  There's no real conflict, no real resolution, other than "Jemima Marries That Guy Who Ignored Her When She Was Overweight."

Don't waste your money.