Title: This One Is Mine
Author: Maria Semple
Release Date: December 4, 2008
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Satire
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
From the dust jacket:
Violet Parry is living the quintessential life of luxury in the Hollywood Hills with David, her rock-and-roll manager husband, and her darling toddler, Dot. She has the perfect life–except that she’s deeply unhappy. David expects the world of Violet but gives little of himself in return. When she meets Teddy, a roguish small-time bass player, Violet comes alive, and soon she’s risking everything for the chance to find herself again. Also in the picture are David’s hilariously high-strung sister, Sally, on the prowl for a successful husband, and Jeremy, the ESPN sportscaster savant who falls into her trap. For all their recklessness, Violet and Sally will discover that David and Jeremy have a few surprises of their own. This One Is Mine is a compassionate and wickedly funny satire about our need for more–and the often disastrous choices we make in the name of happiness.
I have to say, upon my first reading of This One Is Mine, I can’t say my reactions were very positive. The characters were generally unlikeable; I didn’t really care what happened to them. I wasn’t connecting with the book and didn’t really feel any impetus to move forward in the book.
I shared my feelings with some of my fellow book bloggers on Twitter, and they (Julie from Booking Mama and Kathy from Bermudaonion’s Weblog) suggested listening to the Blog Talk Radio chat with the author, Maria Semple. In it, she goes into the story behind the book as well as what her intentions were with it. After listening to this show, I feel like I have a new appreciation for This One Is Mine. While it still wasn’t an absolutely great book, I think I understand what Semple was trying to do with it, and I think she did it very well.
Going into the book, I knew it was a satire, but I didn’t really understand what Semple was trying to do with the book until I listened to her speak. The characters are supposed to be exaggerated and unlikeable. They are caricatures in many ways, a typical Hollywood couple that is self-absorbed and unaware of the world around them. Knowing that brings out the small hilarities within the novel and makes me realize how much I didn’t pick up on the first time around!
Semple also kept referring to it as an “Anna Karenina” story. I’m a little embarassed that I didn’t pick up on that until I heard the interview because now that I reflect on it, it is done very well. Violet is very much an Anna Karenina character – lost, confused, unhappy, and utterly self-absorbed. Semple writes her very well and obviously has a talent for character subtleties.
I’m really glad I listened to Semple’s interview before writing my review of This One Is Mine. I interpreted the book only on the surface, but there is so much there than I originally realized. The question is whether you should listen to the Blog Talk Radio before reading the book. I’m not entirely sure, but I think it would be worth it. If not though, definitely listen to it after! Here is the link, in case you are interested:
Thank you to Miriam for sending me this book to review!