A review of Love Your Life by Sophie Kinsella
I rarely review a book if I don’t rate it three or more stars on Goodreads.
Generally, this is because I don’t finish books that I wouldn’t give at least three stars. Under three stars means I didn’t enjoy the book, and i don’t like to waste valuable reading time on books I don’t enjoy.
But I did finish reading Love Your Life, and the last 5% or so brought me around a bit on the book as a whole. I’m glad I stuck it out, but it was a complicated reading experience for me, and I’m going to attempt to write about why.
Because I’m digging in a little more deeply to unpack why this book didn’t work for me, there may be a minor spoiler here or there, mainly about the overall, general structure of the plot. I’ll keep things vague and stay away from specific details, though.
(Full disclosure: Book links that follow are affiliate links, and I may receive a small commission should you choose to purchase).
I’ve only read a handful of Sophie Kinsella’s many novels, but even so, I thought I knew roughly what to expect from her when I selected Love Your Life as my next read.
And those expectations were a romance novel that more or less fit the standard structure and mode. Person meets person, they fall in love over first half of book, a Bad Thing occurs, then they eventually reconcile for our Happily Ever After.
What I got in this book is… not that.
Our narrator, Ava, is the quirky sort of protagonist Kinsella writes with skill. She is optimistic, cheerful, and gathers eclectic interests and objects with abandon. Ava is partially trained as an aromatherapist, has some mostly finished batik cushions she’s definitely going to sell on Etsy, and has written some portion of a novel.
Her life is full of equally eccentric friends and a spirited, less-than-obedient dog who she loves unconditionally to round it all out.
We meet her just before she embarks on a writing retreat in Italy, where she intends to work on the aforementioned novel.
Except instead she meets a guy, and spends a great deal of time with him, instead.
Naturally I expected her to meet someone in Italy but what happened next is… not what I expected, in the least. The retreat has some interesting rules, such as a uniform and a mandate not to share any personal details, including real names. So, “Aria” and “Dutch” don’t know one another’s real names at the start of their holiday fling.
The two stick to these rules, more or less, as they galivant around Italy together, asking one personal question a day. At the end of the retreat, they declare their love for one another, learn that they both live in London, and plan to… carry on dating.
I confess, perhaps my own skepticism leaked in at this point. I fully, zero percent expected “Dutch” to reciprocate Ava’s feelings, let alone be interested in continuing the relationship in their real lives. One too many ghostings in my past, I suppose.
They return to London and begin to introduce each other to their — very different — lives. It’s here that we learn how different Ava and Matt (Dutch’s real life name) really are.
He works for a massive corporation and is always on business calls that make him irritable, while she has her “portfolio career.” He lives in a sparse, concrete building full of strange art, while her cluttered apartment literally wounds Matt on his first visit.
The bulk of the book explores the two navigating their different lives and opinions, both determined not to have any “deal breakers” even as they clearly disagree about so much.
Because they declared their love so early on and without knowing basically a single thing about each other, I didn’t think that the book was trying to argue love is deeper than the details of our lives. I kept waiting for them to break up and for Ava to find a more suitable man, or perhaps realize her dog Harold is enough companionship for her.
Honestly, I wanted them to break up. The idea that it’s their lives that aren’t compatible, not them as people felt… odd, to me. They had chosen these lives, after all, these preferences being part of who they are.
How could I root for them to press on through the ever-mounting obstacles and hurt feelings when I’d gotten one sun-soaked week in Italy as proof of their love?
I personally could not suspend my disbelief enough to root for them. They were making each other miserable, and Ava seems to constantly make excuses and bend over backward to fit Matt’s life together with hers.
Because I was so curious to see where Kinsella was going with all this, and because the characters — aside from Matt, if I’m honest — are quite compelling and interesting, I pressed on where I might normally have quit reading. Frustrated as I was, I had to know what was going to happen.
The last, oh, seven percent of the book brought things around a bit for me. I think it helped me to finally put together the vision behind the book, and its message.
It doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t enjoy the overall reading experience because I was too busy being annoyed at Ava and Matt for trying to fit together when it seemed like such a terrible idea.
In all, I like where the book ended up, but didn’t find myself enjoying the road to get there.
I would not recommend Love Your Life to people who get easily irritated when characters make what they personally believe is a terrible choice for… most of the book. So I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t recommend this book to me.
I would recommend this book to diehard Kinsella fans who can hang with the Shopaholic (I confess, I disliked the film for similar reasons to why I didn’t like this book), and to anyone who believes that love is about more than the details of our lives.
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