I can think of no better way to start a chick-lit (a term I despise) review than by quoting William S. Burroughs, ‘The American upper middle-class citizen is a composite of negatives. He is largely delineated by what he is not.’
And I am not a chick-lit reader.
I think personal libraries are incredibly insightful (and defining). You can tell what sense of humor a person has (if they have one), where their interests lie, and if they should not have books…what will not be happening (though I once knew a guy who kept Pride and Prejudice on his shelf as a ploy to get women, it worked quite well). I consider myself an eclectic reader, but there are a few genres into which I do not venture. And I do not venture into chick-lit. I often find it difficult to relate to the women and their particular issues – usually involving men, bad choices, too much shopping, etc. That being said, when I picked up ‘No One Could Have Guessed the Weather’*, I was both hesitant and intrigued.
When Lucy, a wealthy London housewife, finds out that her husband has lost everything, she has a minor breakdown. Her life is over, right? She has to give up her housekeeper, her acupuncture, and her sons’ expensive school to live in a tiny apartment in New York City. At first she’s figuratively lost and resentful, until she meets a few other women she can relate to. First she meets Julia, who has just left her husband and two children, Christy, a trophy wife, and Robyn, whose once promising novelist husband refuses to grow up. Their four stories intersect, highlighting the wants, needs, and desires of modern women.
What made me hesitant to pick up the novel was the summary’s final line, “Sometimes what you need in your twenties is not what you need in your forties”. Although I worry about relating to twenty-somethings that just can’t seem to find the right guy or a flattering hairstyle, I was nearly convinced that I wouldn’t have any significant interest in forty-somethings with issues I can’t even begin to fathom (like starting menopause – and dear god what is the crispiness associated with menopause!?). However, I surprisingly revised my opinion when Lucy, hearing someone criticized for having a chip of ice on her shoulder, mentally corrects the person’s phrase to splinter of ice. Yes, that’s a Graham Greene reference. Consider me sold.
While this novel will certainly not make my favorite books list, it was an interesting and engrossing read. With the way the chapters are set up, the novel reads like a series of intersecting short stories. While none of the women are perfect, they are each (somewhat) charming in their own way. Most of the contemporary women’s fiction topics are covered: love, marriage, fidelity, money, wants, and desires. Where the novel excels is in the humor. There are several moments that will make you laugh and none that will make you cry – a perfect summer beach read.
Although the novel is certainly not perfect – does there need to be another novel about wealthy New York women struggling in their relationships – it is very readable. I didn’t relate to the women, but I was able to laugh with them (and, on occasion, commiserate with them) and sometimes that is all you need. If you like chick-lit, I wholeheartedly recommend Anne-Marie Casey’s charming debut ‘No One Could Have Guessed the Weather’. If, like me, this is the part of the literary pool that you rarely dip your toe into, it’s a nice change of pace (and there is a nod to Graham Greene). The novel is excellent for the beach or the plane, it’s short, funny, and unlikely to cause any irreparable harm. 3/5.
Given that the novel is set in New York and it’s rare that I will pass up the opportunity to recommend one of my favorite foods, today I am sharing a Summer Grilled Vegetable Pizza.
*I received a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion,