Reviews of books I've found to be really rather quite spectacular
I ended up liking This One Is Mine but it was definitely a fight to get to that stage! I had to persevere through a rocky first third and a strange middle but it was all worth it for the finale. The last few pages were quite beautiful.
The characters are all pretty horrid. Violet is a flaky and indulged ex TV writer; David is a superstar music manager with a huge ego and a temper to match; Teddy is a carefree, kind of racist, recovering addict; and Sally takes gold-digging to a whole other level. The only kind of likeable characters are Dot and her nanny. Oh and David's assistant Kara. However, as a name nerd, I must tip my hat to Maria Semple - all the names were great. I mean, how cute is Dot?! Anyway, we all know and understand that characters don't have to be likeable - it just means that their journey has to be that more interesting. We get there in the end with this motley crew and every time you think one of them can't get any worse, they have a human moment, and balance is restored.
The main theme of the story is the old "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone" and "the grass isn't always greener" and so on and so forth. Yes, they are age old adages but we don't really seem to learn do we? Especially when we seem to have everything we've ever wanted. Violet's misadventures also represents the restlessness of the rich. David pretty much bleeds money and Violet wants for nothing. Except there's no such thing. You can never have everything, so Violet feels the need to scratch this itch and take a walk on the wild side. Ownership is another theme, as can be deduced from the title. Every character wants something that's solely for them. Even Dot regularly squawks 'want dat'. On the other side, there's dependency. Sally's whole plan is to get out of debt and stop relying on her brother. Admirable. Except she wants a rich husband to save her even though she has her own business and is clearly bright enough to make something of herself on her own.
The best scenes in the book are the chaotic ones such as the wedding, which was hilarious. I could picture it vividly. One thing I wasn't so keen on was the racial slurs. There seemed to be a lot in the first part but luckily this didn't continue for the whole novel. I was close to putting it down at one point because I just didn't see what value the slurs added to the story. Finally, I loved all the Sondheim - everybody needs some Stephen Sondheim in their life. The writing is kind of like a Sondheim composition. I was playing Marry Me A Little the other day and thought of This One Is Mine. On the surface, the song sounds normal but when you actually play it - like most Sondheim songs - it is actually a lot more complicated and intricate than you expect. There's a scene where Dot is trying to sing along to Company and trying to keep up with all the different parts and that's exactly how the reader feels when tackling this novel.
So, if you like you stories offbeat and filled with challengingly unlikeable characters, pick up a copy of This One Is Mine.