Friday, December 20, 2013

Six Weeks to Toxic by Louisa McCormack

I hate the term "chick lit," but I don't know if there's a better term that describes exactly this genre of novel so evocatively. Anyway, it's a genre I generally steer clear of; if nothing else I find - in general - any redeeming qualities of story or character to be buried under a mound of consumerist nonsense; the same problem I had watching Sex and the City.

This book, while thankfully light on the brand name, shopping addiction nonsense, is not really balanced out by anything of substance. The story follows two best friends, Bess (the narrator) and Maxi, through six weeks of their lives - from New Years' to Valentine's Day (also Bess's birthday). The title refers to the fact that it is within these six weeks that their relationship turns from close to toxic, and by the end of the book it is ruined. Maxi is a freelance journalist who comes from money and is in new possession of a beautiful house, and a relationship with a wealthy, attractive man. Bess is a foley artist (super interesting, and probably the most readable parts of the story) who is single and approaching 35 living in Maxi's old apartment, somewhat dissatisfied with how things have turned out.

Throughout the novel, both women's luck begins to turn, which I guess is supposed to be the catalyst for their relationship falling apart. Honestly I was really interested in reading this book because I have had female friendships turn toxic quickly and I thought it would be a relateable, incisive thing to read about; however, the way this story actually goes, it's really not clear that things are falling apart. It's like six weeks of stuff that happens, them going about their lives as friends, then at Bess's birthday party they get into a mild fight and then they're just never friends again. I challenge you to read the penultimate chapter of this book and figure out if your friendship could survive that fight; I bet it could.

I think we are supposed to feel that because things were coming together for Bess while they were falling apart for Maxi (were they falling apart? Her boyfriend just didn't get her the right Valentine's Day gift), a rift developed. But I don't understand why Bess would have a friendship with someone incapable of being happy for her. It didn't make any sense. Really none of it made sense - how could a friendship torn apart by the remarkably mild events of the novel have even survived up to that point?

Mostly what I found unappealing about the book was how boring and unrelateable it was. I did not recognize Toronto in these pages - even though the city and street names are mentioned several times - and I certainly didn't recognize myself or any of my female friends in Bess or Maxi. While neither woman is particularly awful, I didn't find either to be a compelling or likeable character. Their whole friendship seemed to be based on talking about clothes and sex, which, honestly - not that interesting. Neither of them seemed to have a political opinion, or a concept of the world outside of their own.

This might have been another case of 'the writing is good, but this just isn't my genre' but honestly I didn't find the writing that good either. It had a strong whiff of trying too hard; really really hip with barely any substance. I don't think I could even recommend this fluff to fans of "chick lit;" it is not great, you guys.

One CN Tower out of five.

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