Title: Going Home
Author: Harriet Evans
Release Date: December 31, 2004
Publisher: Downtown Press
Genre: Chick Lit
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Lizzy and her family have always adored their English countryside home, Keeper House. Though she lives in London now, with a glamorous job working at a film production company, she loves going home for Christmas and spending time with her family – at least, until she actually gets there. Surprises – both welcome and unwelcome – are revealed, culminating with the shocking revelation that Keeper House must be sold. If that’s not enough, Lizzy runs into David, the man who cheated on her and broke her heart. Lizzy must figure out how to both save her childhood home and deal with her broken heart in Going Home.
I absolutely love the occasional chick lit novel – they are fun, light, and wonderful escapist fare. However, I have been noticing a trend in chick lit lately that I haven’t been liking – novels that don’t really deal with deeper issues and use clichés in order to keep the plot going. While I have really enjoyed Harriet Evans other two novels, The Love of Her Life and A Hopeless Romantic, Going Home was an example of a lot of what I don’t like about chick lit these days, so I decided I’m going to review it that way.
Before I begin, I want to point out that Going Home was written 5 years ago, which means that these problems weren’t as ubiquitous back then! What I’m trying to say is these may not have been clichés when Evans wrote the book, so please keep that in mind when reading this! It’s not my intention to bash Going Home or its author – I’m just trying to make a point with this review.
I did like the fact that the book was light and relaxing – this isn’t a book that will stress you out while reading it. Additionally, despite the issues I had with it, Harriet Evans is a talented writer. The setting of England is also vivid, and descriptions of the house are wonderful and cozy.
However, there were also a lot of issues in Going HomeI. I had a real problem with the main character, Lizzy. One of the main clichés in chick lit is a main character who doesn’t ask questions. She accepts information at face value, thus prolonging the conflict (and thus the book) because she doesn’t really know what is going on. If that’s not frustrating enough, the reader is very aware that something isn’t right. It’s clear that she’s been lied to, but though the main character knows everything the reader knows, Lizzy just doesn’t figure out what’s clearly staring at her in the face. What’s worse, people are constantly telling her in the book to ask questions and figure out what’s going on, but she doesn’t. It was incredibly frustrating to read and made me want to reach through the pages and shake some sense into her.
This lack of curiosity is characteristic of another cliché in chick lit that is annoying – the main character’s self-centeredness, and Lizzy is no exception. She doesn’t come across as selfish or greedy, but she is very self-involved. If your parents are selling your beloved childhood home, wouldn’t you be the least bit curious as to why, especially if you knew they didn’t want to do it? Yet Lizzy never asks her parents what’s going on, or if there’s anything she can help with. In fact, another character in the book points out her self-centeredness, it’s so blatant. When, at the end of the book, Lizzy breaks down in tears because she’s been trying to be such a good daughter and be there for her parents, I started laughing because that was so not the case.
Going Home also doesn’t seem to have much of a plot, which is a problem for a book of its size. The novel is just too long. 100 pages could easily have been cut out of it. Additionally, the book was predictable – it ended exactly the way you thought it would, which is just frustrating. Why read a 450 page book if there are no surprises?
The main problem I had with Going Home, though, was that I just didn’t care. I didn’t care about Lizzy or her friends or her boyfriends. I couldn’t understand why so many men were in love with her, especially after they’d pointed out she’s very self-involved. I thought it might actually be better for the family if Keeper House was sold, and didn’t really care about Lizzy’s schemes to get it back (and I have to ask – who refuses to ask her parents why the house is being sold, yet thinks that it might be a good idea to win the lottery – and equally other insane ideas – to help? Why not just ASK if there is anything you can do?). What’s worse is that Lizzy really exhibited no character development over the course of the book.
Though I love chick lit, the genre has some real problems these days. However, there are also some great chick lit reads – Harriet Evans’ two other novels, The Love of Her Life and A Hopeless Romantic come to mind. Though it’s important not to judge the genre by its clichés, I think it’s important to be aware of what they are