Book Review: The Idea of You

I love this book! And I find it very hard to say what exactly I love the most about it, because it manages to be the perfect light summer read, the ideal escapist story and a quite complex book about what it means to be a woman today all at once. It also celebrates femininity and maturity, constantly describing a woman in her forties as a woman in her own right, not less or more so.

The love story is done marvellously. Both Hayes and Solène are quite adorable characters and have great dialogue. There is plenty of explicit lovemaking (written incredibly well) and hilarious banter, all set in exotic beautiful locations, to boot.

I read in a couple of reviews that the book is pretentious, but I would call it sophistication. Solène is not your average housewife/mother/has-a-career-just-so-that-we-meet-the-sidekick-girlfriend character. She is classy, dresses well, has means, knows and is respected in the art world, is not fazed by celebrity in general, and is not unaccustomed to fancy hotel suites and luxury destinations. Well, maybe not on pop-star level, but in general I find this very refreshing about the book – I certainly didn’t need to read about how awestruck she was by yachts and helicopters and all the usual ‘50 shades’ paraphernalia. Also, this makes the romance way more exciting and believable, because you can feel how Hayes is both smitten and aware she is out of his league. You can buy that a guy, who has this posh background and to whom all doors are open and all people are reachable, would actually fall in love with Soléne. Because let’s be honest, otherwise it would have been hard not to pin him as someone with a “mommy issue”.

The book, albeit light and enjoyable, ponders the big questions about being a woman today. It is really infuriating how much is still denied to women – we cannot simply age and be who we are, we are forced to redefine and constantly search for an identity that could be both pleasing to the eye and fulfilling to ourselves, which is hardly possible. The double standards, the responsibility to your kids, the public scrutiny are all punishing and relentless for a woman, who is not twenty anymore.
Women are always held to a higher standard and that is the nice way to put it. The reality is that women are being judged and burdened with responsibility and limitations every which way and villified for wanting to have a life and freedom of choice. The right to live to the fullest is always obscured by the role as caregivers. Everyone feels entitled to tell women what they should or should not do. And the worst part is that it’s not all external, we have internalized all this pressure to the point where it’s hard to tell where the socially unacceptable ends and the morally right begins.

Photo by Mohamed Masaau on Unsplash

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