a Book Review.
People who should read this book: those that enjoy good writing but that don’t require unrealistic happy conclusions to enjoy a book or someone who feels a draw to the movie and wants a more developed story.
People who should NOT read this book: those looking for a “light” read, erotica, and/or just another love story.
Typically speaking, I always try to read the book before I see the movie-adaption. However, in this case, I had, several times actually, seen the movie based on this book first. Three reasons for that: it was just one of those movies in my formative years that would be on TV and I would watch it on a lazy afternoon in an unplanned fashion; I did not know this was a book until recently; Paul Rudd, Paul Rudd, oh, and Paul Rudd.
So, yes, I kind-of love every role Paul Rudd takes on and that might have led me to this book. The movie casts the early Paul Rudd alongside early Jennifer Aniston; this love story of sorts shares the name of this book, and yes, it is undoubtedly about love. However, as is true of the movie, it is not necessarily a lighthearted romance story, and (!) actually, frankly, the movie does have a happier, lighter tone whereas the book is a heavy, more realistic life force.
Firstly, Stephen McCauley is a superb writer, and I will be looking-up more of his books. As far as how the book is written, it is an easy read. As for the subject matter, I would say it can be hard to digest at times. He writes fluidly and it’s enjoyable to get caught-up in this story. He also isn’t afraid to write characters that are very likable with extremely unlikable qualities. Does the story drag at times? Yeah, sure but more often that, it is an addictive and interesting read.
Secondly, this book doesn’t try to have a happy ending for anyone, and it doesn’t try to wrap it up with a neat little bow on top. There is a lot of realistic love going-on here. Family disappointment is real; characters make poor decisions and don’t have the conversations you wish they’d have; and loving another person isn’t enough to make anyone happy magically. For me, this was an amazing part of the book! This book is more like a satisfyingly mismatched quilt than it is a symmetrical wrapped polka dot package (and I love me some asymmetry).
I have hinted at my final and third point, and it is also the reason this review is four stars, not five. The book does in fact drag at times. Also, I felt that Nina was underdeveloped at times whereas (if it’s possible) George was overdeveloped. There were just times when I wished that George’s conversations with Nina were more giving of Nina’s personality instead of being about George. I don’t think it was that George was selfish because for the most part I think George is aware of his own selfish tendencies though he is sometimes late to noticing them, but the reader sees them.
However, there were so many hints at Nina’s view of the world that were underdeveloped like her work, her feminism, that she didn’t want to marry, and her family background. I also felt like her entire journey would have been more complex for her and that she would have discussed it with George with an openness that the author didn’t seem to know how to get out of his character. It just seemed unlikely that George and Nina wouldn’t have had more intimacy. It was more a said intimacy (meaning George references it more than it is shared with the reader), and I found myself drawing from my own experiences to understand both Nina’s and George’s pain. For me, I was able to empathize due to similar experiences, not because the writer gave me that connection.
All of that being said, I think it’s a solid read especially if, like me, you have something in this story that speaks to you or if you really like the movie and want to have more of the story. I will say the movie DID do a better job with the aforementioned intimacy between Nina and George, but it also seemed, and I hope this isn’t giving away too much, to do the Hollywood thing and lean into everything is happy and forever concept.
I’m a lover of quotes, and maybe you are too! As these are direct quotes from the book, obviously, SPOILER ALERT! Here are My Favorite Quotes from Stephen McCauley’s The Object of my Affection:
“I knew I’d have said ‘I miss you,’ which would have sounded too obvious a thing to say to be sincere…”
“It’s a myth that only organized people can find something when they need it.”
“Often, what’s most attractive about a person is that part they’re trying hardest to conceal, that part they think is least likable.”
“… by some centrifugal force as inevitable as death and much stronger than love.”
“…still, we’d grow apart… we would grow older and our faces would change and one day we would be strangers to each other.”
“It was a cold morning and the boiler in the next room was sputtering and belching.”
“The first time I saw him across the room … I’m sure I turned away or dropped something; he had exactly the kind of intimidating food looks I found irresistible in my masochistic youth.”
“… I felt a fleeting moment of our old companionship and an almost painful stab of my affection for her.”
“… New York seemed the likeliest place to go because I was convinced everybody ended up there at some point in life anyway.”
“There are limits to their affection.”
“Summer was beginning to linger on too long, making the trees and gardens look unhappily overgrown, even in Brooklyn.”
“Aside from being unsettling, I find moving humiliating.”
*McCauley, Stephen. The Object of My Affection. Simon and Schuster, New York. 1987.