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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Review: Dumping Billy by Olivia Goldsmith


Dumping Billy Dumping Billy by Olivia Goldsmith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a fan of Olivia Goldsmith's, which is why I put this book on my 2013 TBR Challenge pile. I don't know if this wasn't the best-written of her work, or if my tastes have changed, but I didn't enjoy this quite as much as her other books. I still enjoyed it, but I was also consciously aware of its flaws.

Despite the book's title and its jacket description, the Billy in question doesn't take up much of the story. Instead, the book is about Katherine (Kate) Jameson, who's escaped her bourgeoisie life in Brooklyn to become the sort of refined Manhattan woman who has a gay best friend, a job at a private school, and a serial problem with boyfriends. At the book's start, she's dating Michael, who's stable and dependable and who her best friend, Elliot, deems boring and not worthy of her. Then her Brooklyn friends, who's she's tried desperately to keep out of her Manhattan life, suddenly intrude in the form of Bina Horowitz, the best of her old friends. Bina's boyfriend was supposed to propose before he left for Hong Kong, but, instead, he dumps her for the prospect of sleeping around while abroad. Bina is heartbroken, until Kate's friends make the connection that a Brooklyn lothario seems to cause all of his ex-girlfriends to get married to the next man they date. They give her a makeover while Kate frets over the advisability of this plan.

Kate holds the strong belief that she's better than her friends, and the text never disavows her of her snobbishness. Her friends are, indeed, wrong to have used Billy to make Jack propose to Bina (though the makeover and distraction and confidence wasn't a bad idea). Her friends are wrong to warn Kate away from dating Billy, herself. Her friends are wrong that there's no substance to him, and of course Billy's problem all along is that no one took him seriously, like Kate does.

It's one thing to have insufferably snobbish heroines who learn humility, but to have Kate proved right repeatedly made her less sympathetic.

Oddly, I did still find myself sympathizing with her, and I felt myself tearing up at the scene where she learns the truth. I felt for her heartache, and I ached to tell her the truth I could so clearly see in those pages. I suppose her insufferable nature was watered down by the clues the reader parsed, but that she didn't.

There are a few introspective scenes that are rather more drawn out than they need to be, and a few recaps of scenes we already read (often recently) that were unnecessary. The book needed some tighter editing, and a little more depth to the non-Kate-and-Billy characters. The snappy Goldsmith dialogue was missing, too; it often felt forced and wooden.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, though it wasn't my favorite Olivia Goldsmith novel. After this, I find myself craving a reread of The Bestseller, as much to revisit what I liked as to check if I still like it as much as when I read it a decade ago.


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