Some dreams push it a little too far.
Publisher: Bantam Books (Random House)
First Published: 19th August 2010
Date Reviewed: 11th August 2010
From the look of the cover, Blake’s The Wish looks like the Chick-Lit of Chick-Lit, so I was very surprised when it was more about getting away from money and living a normal life.
Lulu loves Ben, the son and heir of an entrepreneur. Ben just wants to get away from it all and in knowing Lulu he has found that there is a better life to be had than the one he lives. Ariel, Ben’s sister, wants more attention from her parents for all the good work she does, indeed she wants what Sunshine has, only for more virtuous reasons. Frank has a brilliant business – and he doesn’t know it, but it’s all down to his wife. And Sofia, his wife, has, does, and will stop at nothing to be the very best. Because being the most revered person is the most important thing in the world. Which is what Bessie believes too, even if you have to do one of the most hideous things ever in order to achieve it.
There are three levels to the book. Level one: money, pure and simple. The casino owners have it and they want more of it. Level two: getting away from money. Money isn’t the greatest element of life and is a poor, nay empty, substitute for love, family, and happiness. Level three: money. The filthy rich may have other things in mind but those who stray are often already too caught up to leave it.
The plot is completely character-driven. Blake tells the story through the eyes (though in the third person) of most of each of the main, and some of the secondary, characters. She could have got away with limiting the number of people she used because to be honest some of the characters favoured, although important in their own way, are all to similar to one another, and because there are so many people they overlap in the stories too many times. A couple of the more interesting characters (read: of difference status and mind) are dropped altogether soon after their introduction and while their purpose may have been amply served the difference in them would have enlivened the story further.
One of the themes is family. Frank Arlington dotes on his daughter, but when she jumps ship and goes to work as a stripper for a rival company he lets her get on with it. The Arlingtons have money but Frank knows that there are more important things like that and that his daughter should wallow in what she’s done because he had treated her fairly. Ariel wants her father to give her a promotion and goes to the rival when he doesn’t. It’s a bitter period of familial estrangement that’s wholly needed in a place where money has slyly replaced relationships.
Relationships are more important to these people than they realise. The core of the story rests in the decisions Sofia made when desperate to gain status. She never wavers, yet the person directly involved in her decisions does. Bessie was perhaps worse than Sofia, but she realises her mistakes, even though it’s too late (this is something you learn early on and thus not a spoiler).
I am undecided as to whether the book’s cover is a stroke of genius or a hindrance. On picking the book up I expected money, diamonds, shallow and narrow-minded people and while the book has plenty of all of those thing I was most definitely not expecting to read anything about war.
Yes, war. War has quite a lot to answer for in the character of Sofia. You wonder if she would have been the same person had she not experienced what she had. Certainly she learned the value of family, but at the same time she possibly learned that some people were expendable.
The problem with The Wish is that it is predictable and not unique. It’s a story that’s been told hundreds of times ever since casinos opened. Fortunately, Blake’s discussion of relationships and inclusion of money-driven yet not money-focused characters keeps the book above the water. She knew that she could use her story to provide a lesson to her readers but knew that she was limited by this same story from going too far without changing the genre and plot completely. I say that within the confines she has done very well. It will be interesting to see how, if she so chooses, Blake will continue on this theme in the future.
I received this book for review from Transworld Publishing, Random House.
August 14, 2010, 9:10 pm
I had thought about choosing this one for the Transworld challenge but decided it looked too ‘chick lit’ for me. It does sound good though, so maybe I would have enjoyed it after all. Great review!
Charlie: Yeah, my initial thoughts were the same. I do like Chick-Lit but the more glamorous ones make me think of celebrities so it’s great that this story goes beyond that and highlights important issues.
Thanks :) I’m glad it’s come across that I did enjoy it, when I read it back to myself I wasn’t sure how if it did.