Libby Schmais, The Perfect Elizabeth

This is a case where the Facebook status “It’s complicated” would come in handy. I don’t want to be mean with this little one, because it’s no fault of its own, it’s all about wrong marketing, misleading blurbs and cover art.

The cover refered to “a luscious, frothy tale of Gen-X love”, pictured a tall latte on a doily (because the heroin works as a dog-walker for old ladies at some point), hinted at Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (because it’s about 2 sisters with opposite characters), and Bridget Jones’ diary (for disastrous love life). Of course this book is supposed to be light fare for women, but why do marketing people in the publishing industry always want to join the Jane Austen or the Bridget Jones’ bandwagon (or both of them, a mind-boggling combination in my mind)?

In between the two covers something quite different emerged, and I’d think the book would have stood better chances if it was marketed for what it was: a bittersweet tale of 2 sisters in 2000 NewYork, both of them hesitating on the brink of  responsible adulthood (choosing a career, chasing the dream of being a writer vs. having a boring job that pays the bills, getting into a serious relationship, dealing with ageing parents, infidelity, getting married and/or pregnant). It’s not funny haha, it’s tender and quirky.

On the good pages it captures an innocent age of the pre-9/11, pre-financial crisis New York ; on the less inspired pages it sounds too much like adulescent rants or navel-gazing. I guess the book never completely chooses between acknowledging its chicklit ambition and being serious (neurotic even), so that the result is not as entertaining as it could have been. When the plot escaped to California I really felt that things were going South, and I felt a bit sorry for its missed potential. Really, how often do I want to save a book plot?


4 thoughts on “Libby Schmais, The Perfect Elizabeth

  1. interesting review, and I’m sick too of crime fiction blurbs likening the an author to (for example) Stephen King crossed with Steig Larsson. It’s more likley to put me off these days. I think it drives authors mad too.

    • I like to get an inkling of a crime genre before starting too, but I’d just wish affiliations were accurate and not just whatever comes in handy to make a connection with the latest bestseller! King crossed with Larsson made me laugh!

  2. wasn’t bridget jones supposed to be a sort of modern day Pride and Prejudice though? Her love interest was sort of supposed to be like Mr. Darcy, and then also there was Bridget’s obsession with the film version of P & P? At least this is what I seem to remember from reading that book long, long ago…

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