Daily Archives: February 6, 2009

Tokyo Fiancee by Amelie Nothomb

I very much like Amelie Nothomb’s novels, although they get somewhat repetitive (how many “young Belgian woman in Japan” adventures can we take?) but I found this memoir, or pseudo-memoir, of, naturally, a young Belgian woman in Japan, tedious.

Tokyo Fiancéeflows nicely (I read it in English translation, so cannot really comment on the original) and contains the usual funny comments about Japanese customs (the Swiss fondue set in a suitcase is particularly hilarious) but I was rooting for the unlucky, exploited Japanese boyfriend all the way. He is really sweet, Swiss fondue set and all, but he gets exploited as a (Japanese) language teacher, travel guide, and banker from the get go, when he generously pays for interviewing Amelie as his prospective French teacher.  Amelie takes care of number 1 throughout the story, banishing the boyfriend when her sister visits and never removing the misunderstanding once he comes to believe that she will marry him. Shame on her!

This must be my week to read about self-centered mean people.

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This One is Mine by Maria Semple

Two self-involved, vacuous women who happen to be sisters in law set out to mistreat their husband and lover, respectively and bumble about until they get what’s coming to them, more or less. They are so inane and self-centered that I started rooting for the husband after a couple of chapters, even if he starts out as a mean control freak. Then in the middle of the book he undergoes an abrupt conversion to semi-sainthood during a New Age sweat lodge ceremony (the only really funny part of the book) and at that point I really wanted him to get rid of his wife and his sister as well.

The author displays a solid knowledge of the intricacies of the Los Angeles real estate and expensive French couture, ad nauseam, although her French could once again stand a good native reviewer (as argued before.)

This One Is Mine is a good reminder that chick lit is not as effortless or effort-free as the good one makes it seem. I hope this first novel remains single.

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