J is for Jewell

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I went for a very easy J – Lisa Jewell’s Vince & Joy. I object whole heartedly to labelling or pigeon holing anything from music to films to books, but very generally speaking so-called chick lit is far too successful. There are some authors I like who are smeared with the chick lit brush – Meg Cabot has written some fun stuff, Jodi Piccoult tends to be tarred with it and Marian Keyes is capable of writing interestingly. Unfortunately Lisa Jewell does not fall into the category of ‘worthy chick lit’, if you will.

Vince & Joy follows the love, losses and tribulations of Vince and Joy. They meet as teenagers in a caravan park in Hunstanton (yay, East Anglia reference) where they enjoy two weeks of intense connection, and both lose their virginities, to each other. One morning, in fact, the morning after, Vince wakes up to find a soggy note from Joy where all he can make out is ‘I’m so ashamed’. He assumes that this relates to their night of passion, but of course the reader knows that it’s something to do with Vince’s pretty mother and Joy’s pervert father. When this is finally revealed, five hundred pages later, it’s a bit of an anti climax.

I read the whole thing so I obviously didn’t detest it. The story begins with Vince at a friend’s house, while they cheer him up from the latest dumping. They begin to talk about their first loves, and from there Vince tells the story of Joy. I liked this way of getting into the story, as contrived as it was.

The whole thing rattles along pretty well, lots of near misses, disastrous relationships on both sides and lots of fate/destiny moments to keep romantics happy. The other thing I liked about it was that it was told in the majority from Vince’s perspective. His voice is slightly feminine, but then his character is a bit wet so it fits in quite well.

Vince and Joy were obviously the main characters, but there were hundreds of other people involved who flitted in and out. Most of them were pretty well drawn, but a couple were confusingly similar. Vince and Joy both end up with kooky, hippy housemates at one point. Later on in the book, the woman I thought was Joy’s housemate has a revelation when she spots joy in a magazine. Of course, it’s Vince’s ex housemate who’s never met Joy, just knows about her. Maybe that’s just me not paying proper attention, but I did find it confusing.

Although the flashbacks are interesting, the five hundred odd pages propel the reader through inevitable relationship failures towards the end, where you know that Vince & Joy are going to end up together because they’re meant to be together. Of course, when that finally happens, the book ends. I was a bit disappointed with this – I wanted to see them get married and have kids and grow old together. I think that’s probably a compliment for Jewell, that I wanted to see more of the characters and wasn’t thoroughly bored of them.

I’d recommend this book, or any of the other near identikit pastel covered novels, if you’ve got a couple of hours to kill. Or you find it in a train station. Nice, but not really satsifying. The literary equivalent of a big bowl of vanilla ice cream. Good to have but you regret it when you’re starving later.

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