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Today Will Be Different – Maria Semple

I’ll get this out of the way first, Semple’s book Where’d you go Bernadette is hand on heart one of my most favourite books ever; unconventionally structured, funny, witty and sharp as a pin.  So I had high hopes and itchy fingers to get my mitts on this.

The perfect antidote to my heavy-going summer reads, I loved this. There seems to be some harsh criticism for this latest novel from Semple, but I think those who do are missing the point. In my humble opinion.

Eleanor Flood, the main voice (part narrated, part not) is flawed. She knows she’s flawed. In fact she knows she’s pretty terrible at times. Which for me, made her really real. Authentic and searingly honest, I don’t think for one minute we’re meant to take the whole thing so seriously. Semple’s a comedic writer – parts had me blushing at my recognition of my own moments of disproportionate dysfunction and tendency to catastrophise – and other parts had me laughing out loud. Often.

Timby, Eleanor’s son, is a brilliant foil to her erratic and often ill-judged behaviour.  His naïve school-learned platitudes “Smell the soup (breath in) Cool the soup (breath out)” made me chuckle, along with his only-child grown up way of engaging with adults.

Eleanor’s prone to being pretty judgemental and has an acerbic wit and sharpness. Frankly, you know that she’s capable of being a right bitch. But beneath that veneer, is a surprising softness and vulnerability with overriding sense of loss and fear, which you see often. Her relationship with her sister, her fear of losing Joe, her husband – all have led her down unsavoury paths, but the motivation was the same, her love for them, and her fear of losing them. Her fear that her career is over; that she’s not the young nubile woman she was….Semple’s ability to off-set that with Eleanor’s flippancy and child like lack of judgement keeps it on-beat and the right side of self pitying.

One of the criticisms I’ve read seems to focus on the lack of plot line. I agree that it meanders at times and that there isn’t a huge plot arc with tonnes going on, it’s all from the view of Eleanor’s day and how that pans out. So no, this isn’t that kind of book, it isn’t trying to be and it’s entirely different.

Maybe, as I’m firmly ensconced in my own midlife crisis, I identify more with Eleanor than some readers might. But for me, any book that can make me laugh out loud, especially as often as this did, is a success.

The only downside will be the interminable wait for Semple’s next one. My god, I love her.

 

 

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