Chasing Harry Winston

Book Jacket  2W, 3H

Weisberger, Lauren, (c. 2008). Chasing Harry Winston.  Simon and Schuster. 288 pages, $23.99

ISBN  9781410407306

Reviews:
New York TimesEntertainment Weekly

Annotation:

Experiencing different levels of dissatisfaction in their love lives, three college friends decide to make life-altering changes as their 30th birthdays approach.

Summary:  

Three best friends from college make a bet  to spend the next year going against their instincts in an attempt to find true happiness in their lives.  Emmy, Leigh and Adriana, all living in Manhattan, are completely different from each other and in distinctly different circumstances.  Emmy has been dumped by her no-good boyfriend, Leigh is in  a relationship with the “perfect guy” and Adriana is challenged by the concept of monogamy.  With their 30th birthdays approaching they decide that something must be done to turn things around so a pact is made that changes the course of their lives.

As they stumble from Paris to the Hamptons and ultimately to Los Angeles, the three friends work to figure out what makes life worth living,  culminating in the final celebratory dinner to assess their past year.  Filled with romance, broken hearts and an over-the-top, sassy South American, this book will take you away in laughter if not in plot or character development.

Evaluation:

If you are a fan of Sex in the City, then you will enjoy Chasing Harry Winston as a good way to pass the time while on a flight or better yet, by the pool or beach while on your vacation.  Although the character development is relatively shallow and the plot lines predictable, the appeal is in those very features making it a great chick-lit, no-nonsense read.  For those who prefer steamy romance, this is not going to satisfy in that sense.  But, it will definitely appeal to those who enjoy fashion references, posh lifestyles and women characters who ultimately take control of their circumstances while hanging tight to their sense of self.

Genre/Subgenre:

Chick Lit

Readalikes:

Four Blondes by Candace Bushnell.  Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

 Book Discussion Questions:

Which character made the most/least growth in their year?

How were the men portrayed in this chick-lit feature?

How many of you had to Google “Harry Winston” to understand the title?

Reasons for selection:

This was mentioned in our Chick-Lit discussion group as a fun and light read.  Once an avid fan of romance, I certainly see the appeal here and can recommend it to the right people.  Even in my “romance” days, I probably would not have picked this up because, yes, I did have to Google “Harry Winston” because I’m just not that interested in high-fashion and all that it represents.

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The Return Journey

  2W, 2H

Binchy, Maeve, (c. 1998). The Return Journey.  Delacourte Press. 214 pages , $18.65.

ISBN:  0385315066

Reviews:
Publishers Weekly  Vulpes Libris blog

Annotation:

In fourteen short stories, relationships unfold around what can or cannot be during different journeys.  The characters are realistically flawed yet always redeemable

Summary:  

This compilation of short stories moves between Ireland, Europe and the United States, introducing characters with different backgrounds, situations and motivations.  All the stories revolve around some aspect of travel where relationships and discoveries can either be built up or destroyed.  There is the young couple, secure in their knowledge that they are in a perfect relationship until they shop for suitcases for an upcoming journey, discovering how different they really are.  One story tells of the dedication of a property manager whose life gets happier as others’ lives spiral into slumps.

Maeve Binchy, known for her heartwarming stories, manages to fold fourteen separate scenarios into one volume.  The characters’ motivations develop quickly moving the each story quickly to its end.  And not all the endings are completely predictable, just as life is never completely predictable.

Evaluation:

This is a quick and light read for those that enjoy short stories and leisurely paced writing.  Although some of the scenarios are dated and admittedly, slightly annoying, Binchy has produced an enjoyable series of stories where women and men must question their motivations and ultimately live with the consequences.

Genre/Sub genre:

Mainstream Fiction/Short stories

Readalikes:

Snow Angels by Fern Michaels. Where I’m Calling From by Raymond Carver.

Book Discussion Questions:

Which was your favorite story and why?

Besides travel, did you notice any other common themes throughout the stories?

Why do you think the action of taking a journey can be symptomatic of the health of a relationship?

Reasons for selection:

I found this book by just browsing through the stacks at one of the library branches where I was killing time  in between meetings.  I hadn’t read much of Maeve Binchy and I normally do not seek out short stories so I thought I’d give the compilation a try.  I found myself enjoying the vignettes of life portrayed in each scenario and the endings that always left the reader wondering about the character’s next steps.