Swapping Lives is a story whose theme covers an often-discussed topic: what would it be like to step into the shoes of someone else?
Vicky is 35, has a job as Features Editor at Poise Magazine in London, and seems to have the perfect single life. Deep down, however, she's unhappy. She wants to be married, to have the comfort and safety of a large country home.
On the other side of the pond is Amber, a housewife in Connecticuit who keeps being compared to the characters from Desperate Housewives. She's married to a Wall Street broker and has two children, and spends her free time doing events for the local Ladies' League. She also has a huge wardrobe full of designer clothes. Her life, too seems perfect. But Amber is tired of keeping up with the Joneses, and wants to have a taste of what its like to be single again.
And idea is hatched: Poise will hold a Life Swap, in which Vicky will switch lives with a housewife for a month. She'll wear the women's clothes and do all the tings the housewife would normally do. When none of the candidates from England proove to be acceptable, Vicky responds to a letter from Amber--and ends up falling in love, briefly, with the life she leads. Therein follows a string of interesting occurences in which Vicky tries to be the typical American housewife and mother and Amber attempts to live the life of a single woman in London--in the process fending off Vicky's old admirers.
This book had several major flaws. First of all, it took until more than halfway through the book for the swap to actually occur. Jane Green kept setting the mood for more than 200 pages, pages that could have been devoted more to the experiences the women have when they switch. Also, Vicky and Amber decide, after all of this and only two weeks in their new lives, to switch back again! After all the energy that was put into building the characters, there's this anticlimax that is disappointing. The subject of this book is rehashed material and the ending is predictable; the women find that they prefer their own lives, after all. Jane Green should stick to writing about single girls--even though, as a mother of four, I suspect that getting into that mindset would be difficult. However, Green's earlier books were much more fun to read.
This novel had some moments that were greatly entertaining and even interesting at times. The photo of the author on the jacket made me think that she has some personal experience with the "Desperate Housewives" lifestyle. Still, it's a lifestyle that has really been done to death and I found it a bit far-fetched that in her quest to experience the married with children life, Vicky chose Amber's. If Vicky really wanted an accurate picture of married with children life, shouldn't she have chosen a household that was rather more middle class, where the kids weren't being raised by a nanny and where the mother wasn't out buying designer bag after designer bag? How much reality can anyone get from that sort of lifestyle? This particular plot thread was complicated by the fact that the author seems to be condemning the lifestyle but not entirely. While criticizing it, she's also glorifying it. The author really only skims the surface with this issue and I think she'd have been better served if she'd delved a bit deeper and gave some more insight into what made these women behave the way they were.
This goes doubly for Amber. The character was a prime opportunity for Green to dissect what goes on in the head of a woman caught up in this lifestyle but she pretty much throws the opportunity away. Amber felt pretty two-dimensional to me in general. She was symbolic of the woman who comes from nothing, marries for money, and then loses herself in the competition to prove that she is more affluent than the rest, but that's it. The reader never gets a real feel for what's going on in Amber's head, of what her hopes and dreams once were. Green makes her seem mercenary when describing how Amber pursued her husband but then tries to soften this so that Amber doesn't totally sound like a gold digger. It's not really effective and to me it didn't make sense, given that Amber was supposedly ambitious and had her own successful career.
As for Vicky, I also found her to be a rather stereotypical character. The clubbing, drinking single girl really has been done to death and it would have been nice to see a character who broke out of this mold a bit. I could understand Vicky's worry that she would be alone for the rest of her life but she mostly came across as desperate. She was also very judgmental when it came to men and I didn't think this was entirely realistic for a woman who is supposedly so consumed with worry about not finding a mate for life.
All in all, this novel was a pretty typical work of chick lit and I found that disappointing. I read Jemima J several years ago and really liked how Green got into the head of her character. I don't think I'll be in a rush to read more from the author.
on August 24, 2006
I was so looking forward to this book, like I look forward to all of Jane Green's books. Sadly however, the book is not nearly as good as the summary provided by Amazon. None of the characters really pulled you in, the first 150 pages just rambled on and on about how their lives appeared to be golden but so many things were missing - a man (seriously, come on) for the British swap and an actual grasp on reality for the American Swap. We are literally forced to listen to the main characters complain on and on and on... It gave me a headache.
Put this book back on the shelf, unclick it from your shopping, cart, return it to the library, save your self some time, and read Baby Proof or Something Borrowed/Something Blue.
And you, Jane Green, start writing witty novels again!
Usually I would pick up each of Jane Green's books right when they came out. I loved her development of characters, and the general storyline that followed in her earlier books. However, this book was definitely not one of my favorites. Though I do find that most chick lit is a tad bit predictable, this one was exceedingly so. As other reviewers mention, the story ends up in exactly the place that you would think it would: each prefers their old lives. There are a couple of twists, as others mention, but they hardly qualify as twists. They emerge extremely late in the book and are wrapped up too neatly. Also, the characters to me seem like the stereotypes of the single gal who just wants to get married and the married woman who misses aspects of her old life. I just didn't feel like these characters, or the others that surrounded them, were interesting enough to really feel for them in the way I had for some of Jane Green's other characters. They just felt very one dimensional and flat. I also agree that there is so much set up in this book (I read half way through and felt like nothing had happened) and that the swap takes place very late and doesn't seem to cause much of a transformation in the women. In general, this book felt dull to me and lacked the life and relative depth of most of her earlier books. I would check out one of her earlier books instead or get this from the library.
on August 22, 2007
I am a little surprised at all the bad reviews. I've read all of Green's books, and while this might not be her best book to date, I have a hard time imagining it being considered an awful book.(I actually would have given this three and a half stars, were that an option).
Yes, this book is a little predictable, and the characters don't have tremendous depth - certainly not as much as some of Green's characters in earlier books. But what Green did really well in this book was to make the reader see how Vicky and Amber both got into the positions they're in today - a successful but single woman who longs for a family (Vicky), and a happily married woman with two children who, despite being caught up in the social climbing ridiculousness that surrounds the women in her town, loathes her own lifestyle (Amber).
While I had a hard time understanding why Vicky and Amber didn't make more proactive choices in their own lives, and while I had a hard time relating to the desire to actually swap lives with someone else, I thought Green stayed true to her typical M.O. - fun, easy to read books with likable characters and a satisfying ending.
on January 13, 2007
I recently took some books home with me for the holidays to catch up on some reading. Friends of mine are big fans of this author so I decided to check out this book and was disappointed. I found the characters to be rather superficial and one dimensional and the story did not really hold up after about the first fifty pages. In short, there really wasn't much depth to really keep you interested in what was going on, though I would not say that it was boring. Just not very substantial.
I would not recommend this book unless you are looking to read something very, very light.
on September 25, 2006
I am a huge Jane Green fan and was very disappointed with this novel. The story had interesting possibilities, but also left a bitter taste in my mouth. The thing I found the most disturbing is that every man in the book was a remarkable cad...even Amber's "devoted" husband. Call me naive, but not every man that is attracted to another woman other than his wife is going to act on that attraction. Also, the story seemed to drag and then ended abruptly. Doesn't even compare with The Other Woman.
on December 15, 2014
Yet another well rounded story based loosely on the TV show "Swapping Lives", but with more character development. Funny, witty and filled with insights about how most women often long for what they don't have until they get the lightbulb perspective of what they do have is pretty good. Green always manages to fully vet her characters so that even when the story lags a bit, you're so invested in the players, you remain engrossed. Fans will love this one as much as all her other books. Well done Jane!
on October 15, 2006
I'm a huge Jane Green fan, but I must say I am disappointed with her latest effort. The writing style almost drove me insane - every time I read a paragraph beginning with "For", I wanted to scream! I barely made it through the book, and only forced myself to finish as I kept hoping that it would take a turn for the better. I loved all her earlier books, but would definitely recommend you pass on this one.
Vicky Townsley is a glamazonian Londoner and features editor at Poise! magazine. She is single, has an amazing flat, wears top to bottom Prada and Dolce, is beautiful, and has a gorgeous boyfriend. To put it in another way, she has the sort of life anyone would envy. Well, Amber Winslow wouldn't mind walking a mile or two in Vicky's stilettos, that's for sure. A typical Connecticut housewife complete with successful husband, pristine suburban home and the almost prerequisite 2.5 children (the .5 is a golden retriever), Amber is bored to death. Suddenly, getting her already perfect home made over by the hottest interior decorators isn't very fulfilling and is it so very wrong that she probably loves one of her kids more than the other? Ugh, if only she could trade places with someone else, someone more... glamorous. Amazingly enough, Vicky is thinking something along those lines, only that her idea of a perfect life consists of the marriage, children and suburban lifestyle that Amber takes for granted so much. In short, they want each other's lives. If only they had what the other one has. Then they would be happy -- right?
I'm sure you get the gist of what the plot, CPD (contrived plot device) and moral of the story is, which just about sums up Jane Green's Swapping Lives. Heck, even the title is predictable. Reading the book was a major chore, but I thought I should finally read it since I'd had it in on my TBR pile for well over a year (the hardback copy!). The problem? In addition to what I mentioned above, neither heroine is particularly interesting, though Vicky is a little more relatable from a single woman's perspective. However, she is not much different from Geraldine (Jemima J.), Portia (Bookends), Tasha (Straight Talking) and Libby (Mr. Maybe). Green seems to shine when writing about attractive Londoner fashionistas with glamorous jobs. It appears that Green was once one of these women (before she got married, had kids and moved to Connecticut, in turn becoming a character like Amber). The aforementioned glamazons seem more fleshed out to me than the more grounded heroines like the one in Bookends (whose name escapes me). But, unlike the others, Vicky wasn't a good enough distraction from the rest of the book. The author's switch from chick-lit to lady-lit means that her novels are no longer as sassy and fun as they once were, and her style now is simply boring. The writing has suffered. There is too much telling and not enough showing both scene-wise and emotion-wise, and the overall story is anticlimactic and pointless -- so many words and papers just to say nothing. Green's novels have never been innovative and unique in the women's fiction genre, but at least they were entertaining. Now they are not even that. The last JG book I read before this one was The Other Woman, I believe, a novel about a horrible mother-in-law. I thought it was okay, but I noticed the decline in quality back then as well. I think Swapping Lives will be my last Jane Green book. I wish her well and further success in her career though.