JemimaJ

 
Mr. Maybe by Jane Green
(Broadway Books, $19.95, PG-13) ISBN 0-7679-0519-9
***
Although Mr. Maybe is being published in the U.S. now, it was actually written before British author Jane Green made a big splash stateside with Jemima J. And, frankly, it reads like a beginnerís novel. It isnít as interesting or as well-written as Jemimaís ďugly ducklingĒ story, although it does have its Bridget Jones-like charms.

Thereís not much to the plot. Our heroine, Libby, works in public relations, owns a small London flat, and has terminally bad luck in love. Over the course of the novel, she is presented with the choice of two dissimilar men, Nick and Ed. She has great fun with Nick, he makes her laugh, and the sex is great, but he has no money, his friends are left-wing radicals, he lives in a grotty bedsit in Highgate (I have no idea what that means, but it sounds godawful), and he is allergic to commitment. Thatís okay, though, because Libby tells herself that she can just enjoy a physical affair without becoming emotionally involved. Yeah, right. Then, at a weak moment, Libby accepts a date with Ed McMann, a fabulously wealthy investment banker who is looking for a wife. He isnít terribly attractive, heís a bit on the stuffy side and he canít kiss worth beans, but heís the Mr. Right every woman dreams of, isnít he? Maybe not.

If you canít tell which man Libby will end up with, you might want to come in out of the sun and clear your head. Sex and laughter win out over money every time, donít they? And it is mildly entertaining watching Libby realize this, but it isnít necessarily enough to justify the hardcover book price. Greenís chatty, first-person narrative treats the reader like Libbyís newly found best friend, and in fact the relationship that Libby has with her real best friend, Jules, is the highlight of the novel. Itís gratifying to read about women who support each other through thick and thin, and who can be counted on to tell each other the truth even when itís not pretty.

But in 350 pages, I was looking for more plot than what I found -details about Libbyís work, family dynamics, interesting secondary characters, or entertaining, unusual events. But the story remained fairly simple and straightforward - the no-brainer choice between love and money. Also, I couldnít help feeling that Libby is rather a shallow creature who is more concerned with designer clothing than anything else. On the other hand, I sympathized with her during the second half of the book, when she tries to rationalize her lack of strong feelings for Ed by convincing herself that itís more important to respect your prospective mate, and to have a boyfriend who adores you, than to be madly in love with a man who is going to break your heart. Weíve all been there, done that, glad we found a clue.

Jemima J is now out in paperback, and frankly itís a much better novel. Iím looking forward to Jane Greenís real follow-up to her bestseller, not just an American version of an earlier British release. If youíre firmly addicted to the Brit Chick Lit, Mr. Maybe isnít a bad book to pick up, just not an exceptional one.

--Susan Scribner


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