Saturday, May 1, 2010

book review: This One Is Mine by Maria Semple

This One Is Mine: A Novel
The backstory: I remember reading several great reviews of This One Is Mine when it first came out. When the opportunity to review it in support of its paperback release, I jumped at the chance. When my copy arrived in the mail, I ogled the cover quote: "An unexpectedly moving story about the risks and rewards of love, in all its irrational glory." - Tom Perrotta. Tom Perrotta is one of my two favorite authors (the other is Pearl Cleage), so an endorsement from him goes a long way with me.

The basics: Violet is married to David, and they are beyond wealthy. Violet was a tv writer, but now she does little, to the chagrin of her husband, who works in the music business. They have a young daughter, Dot, who has a nanny, dubbed LadyGo. Violet unexpectedly meets Teddy, a recovering addict musician and a general mess of a person. David's sister Sally

The good: I loved the beginning of this book. I was immediately drawn into the characters and their satire. It was funny.

The cover: I am not a fan of the paperback cover. While it works as a satire in contrast to the book itself, I don't think it appeals to the people who would like this book. This book is meant for fans of Tom Perrotta, Nick Hornby and Michael Chabon. It is not chick lit. I adore the irony, but a cover's value shouldn't come after reading the book; it should make people want to read the book, and cover art gives readers certain expectations about the book. I much prefer the hardback cover:

The verdict: I'm certainly not sorry I read this book, but the intrigue and drama tailed off for me part way through. What plot twists there were seemed telegraphed from the early pages of the novel, and there wasn't enough oompf to make me still care or enjoy the characters realizing what the reader already knew. Even within the satire, I didn't care much. The characters and their actions were mostly incomprehensible to me. I realize that was Semple's intention, but I need something or someone in the book to latch onto. There were glimpses, but it wasn't enough for me. The irony, of course, is that the things I disliked were intentional. This One Is Mine is a tale of Los Angeles, greed and selfishness. Ultimately, Semple took it too far for me. It wasn't enjoyable to read. I felt sleazy on behalf of the characters. She's a gifted writer, and I look forward to more work. This book didn't do it for me, but others might like it. I'm certainly glad I read it, and it's a book that begs to be discussed.

Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Length: 320 pages
Publication date: It's out in paperback now
Source: Review copy from the publisher

Other reviews:


  1. Wow I am really suprised with how dramatically the two covers were changed - that's kind of unusual isn't it? It's like they went for literature with one and chick lit with the other. Hmm.

  2. I never would've guessed those two covers were the same book. I remember when the book first came out I wasn't wowed by the original cover, but the second cover doesn't fit with what I know about the book, either.

  3. I just read this too, and I said the same thing about the covers in my review. I definitely liked the HC one better - I think that was part of why I'd wanted to read it for awhile, to be honest (if a bit shallow). The PB cover does nothing for me.

    My overall take on the book was pretty similar to yours, actually.

  4. Fair enough. you've intrigued me with your review, so I might look out for it, but I understand your reservations. thanks for a great review!

  5. Love your review. I don't want to read anything that makes me feel sleazy so I'll give this one a pass.

    The covers are so different from each other!

  6. I've been seeing this book around an awful lot. I liked your review, but I'm not sure this book would be for me?

  7. I have this one for review here too and I'm glad to have a heads up that it isn't chick lit-ish. I was sort of slotting it into a chick lit spot in my reading line-up based on the cover (yeah, yeah, never judge a book by its cover). But as I am a fan of Perrotta and Hornby, I hope I'll still be okay.

  8. I enjoyed this one much more than I thought I would, but I can certainly understand how you felt. This woud definitely be a fun book club discussion b/c most of the review that I have read go one way or the other on it.

  9. I'd never seen the hardcover art, and I have to agree, it really suits the book better than the art on the paperback. This isn't a fluffy book, and the paperback's cover art is decidedly fluffy.


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