Opposite of Love

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 The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum Upon first glance of the story and the characters within, you could assume that this book is the usual “chick lit” nonsense about a girl trying to save her love life, family and career. Emily Haxby is a 29 year old lawyer in Manhattan who on the surface appears to have everything; a successful job, a devoted doctor boyfriend in Andrew and good friends. However, from the start, it is clear that Emily is on the verge of a melt down! Andrew is about to propose and Emily believes it is the last thing that she needs whilst her job goes from bad to worse when she is given the task of helping out on a case that everyone in the office dreads and with a letchy boss. To top it off, her beloved grandfather has Alzheimer’s and her distant father is no help for her in times of crisis. As you can see, it’s the perfect set up for a romantic- type of book (I’ve also read a review that compared Emily to Carrie Bradshaw’s smarter sister, but aside from living in Manhattan, I fail to see the comparison!) but upon starting this book, I was taken in a different direction…

One of the best, and for me the most telling lines of the book is right on the first page, “Last night, I dreamt that I chopped Andrew up into a hundred little pieces, like a Benihana chef, and ate them, one by one.” The fact that she goes on to say that he tasted like chicken just adds to the bizarre factor and immediately made me aware this isn’t going to be a run of the mill book. Which pleased me; I wanted this book on recommendation of one of my favourite sites who had this as one of their books of the month last year. My impressions on reading their take on it was that it was a more sophisticated book than the usual chick lit rubbish (which, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy now and again but reading one after another just bores me to tears!!).

I’m still on the fence about where this book lies in terms of “labelling” and I’d probably say that it sits firmly in-between; whilst the subject matter and central plot sits firmly in the “chick lit” camp, the writing is strong, some of the subjects are more serious and are tackled more thoughtfully and the descriptions are a mixture of beautiful and bizarre giving it a more contemporary feel also. Please see for yourself from my review….!

So I mentioned from the very first page that this book grabbed me with its one line about Andrew. However, for the next couple of chapters, I found it difficult to get really involved and completely like Emily as the author takes her sweet time making her a sympathetic creature that readers can identify with. What we see is a woman who seemingly has everything, but who throws it away because she is scared. Her boyfriend dotes on her and is on the verge of proposing but this isn’t what she wants – and we are not given a solid reason why (it is just repeated that her boyfriend tastes like chicken in her dream!) During this time, I felt the book takes on a very bleak vibe and I hoped that it would pick up. As well as seeming incredibly silly for getting rid of Andrew for no apparent reason, her whole character just seemed a bit depressing.

As the chapters build, so does Emily’s character, and the reader is introduced to other characters who bring a bit of colour to the book. There is her friends Jess, Kate and Mason and there is also her Grandpa Jack and his friend Ruth. Once we are introduced to these characters, there is – finally – some enjoyment in reading about Emily’s life, her friendships and her relationships with her Grandpa show her to be thoughtful, funny caring and more importantly, more human than her break-up with Andrew made her out to be!! I was also warmed by the fact that all these characters are completely baffled by her break-up with Andrew; and slowly through her family background the reader begins to understand her fears and exactly why she might have ended her relationship.

I’ve mentioned that Emily can be quite humorous; in fact this book did have me smiling and laughing in places and it wasn’t the usual chick lit humour either; the language is often harder, quite a lot of the time we hear Emily swearing or making sarcastic comments about her boss and this makes the book very interesting indeed! Combined with the style of writing and the very serious topics that are discussed, the humour is subtle and works very well.

“I’ve heard this book is going to be made into a film and I have to say it is the perfect candidate for this…”

In fact, looking back over the plot, it is more to do with Emily’s “self-discovery” than her romance with Andrew, and I think this may be what has put me off rating this book so highly. Admittedly, Emily states after the first couple of chapters that she has severely messed up with Andrew and made a massive mistake, and therefore in true chick lit style the pattern is set for the rest of the book. However, I do so hate the whole American way of needing to find oneself, and there seemed to be quite a lot of it in this book. There are funny and touching moments that seem real, like the awkward predicament she finds herself in with her boss in a hotel room, or the way that she is on the subway in a prom dress when she seems Andrew for the first time. However, it is when Emily finally starts getting herself back together that the book started to not ring true; far too many clich├ęs and notes of wisdom spoiled this book and its subtle and funny ways. Its just so obvious why she has trouble with emotional attachments to people because of losing her mother, and this is all stated in the most American of ways, for example, the way her and her friends discuss how she is “not ready for an Andrew”. The way it is discussed and made to sound so profound just seems so false to me.

I’ve heard this book is going to be made into a film and I have to say it is the perfect candidate for this – it has a funny and sarcastic heroine who is messed up; who has trouble committing to the man she loves and needs to “find herself” before everything will turn out rosey. Another telling tit-bit I read from another review – the author had a huge advance to write this and they only spent 4 months writing it. I have to say, she has done well in what she is written for that short length of time, but it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that this book was written out of love and that she tried to make it the best book it could be. It sounds too much like this was made for the movies – it’s a perfect blockbuster hit but one that doesn’t ring true in the form of a book. All too predictable even if there were funny moments and unfortunately, overall that spoilt it for me.

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Opposite of Love (The)
by Julie Buxbaum

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