I Take You by Eliza Kennedy, book review

Thinking woman's chick lit that fails to raise a chuckle

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The Independent Culture

I Take You thinks of itself as the intelligent woman's chick-lit read. Its central character Lily went to Harvard Law School and lands a job working "crazy hours" at a top New York law firm in her early twenties. Her fiancé Will is a geeky museum archaeologist who would rather talk about Greek artefacts than what cocktail to order at a bar.

It's easy to see what Eliza Kennedy, wife of the Man Booker shortlisted author Joshua Ferris, intended with her first novel. On paper it has the promise of being an enjoyable guilty pleasure about a young woman who's unsure about getting married to someone she's only known for six months. In reality, it's doubtful many will be howling with laughter by the poolside this summer.

In writing Lily, Kennedy manages to break the golden rule of chick lit by crafting a central character who is wholly unlikeable. Lily is arrogant and callous and devoid of any of the self-deprecating qualities that make readers warm to protagonists such as Bridget Jones. In the week before her wedding to Will she boasts about flirting with men, kissing strangers and almost having sex with another hotel guest. Her problems with infidelity are supposed to make her seem vulnerable, but they only make us wonder why she's cheating on a man she describes as perfect.

As if her character flaws weren't enough, Lily's narration is grating, too. At various points she'll remind the reader what she really meant to say with one-word sentences punctuated with an exclamation mark. "Metaphor!", "Insanity!" and "Funny!" all form part of her unlikely Harvard graduate vocabulary (but she did sleep with the Dean of Admissions to get in, so perhaps that explains it).

It's not just Lily who reads like a character from a Nineties' high-school movie. In her hometown in Florida, where she is due to get married in seven days to Will, we are introduced to a number of characters who all feel like caricatures. Her hippie mother, tough-as-nails grandma, social-climber step mother, British father, kick-ass best friend and stern mother-in-law-to-be all sound like they could be something out of Meet the Fockers meets How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days.

Unlike those films, the biggest problem with this novel is it lacks any humour. There is no single laugh-out-loud moment and it fails to deliver the feel-good factor that leaves you wanting more. Instead, by the end, we find Lily so detestable we couldn't care less about the juicy crux of it – whether Lily marries Will or not – which speaks volumes.

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