Goodbye, Jimmy Choo

Goodbye, Jimmy Choo by Annie Sanders Author: Annie Sanders
Publisher: Hachette Book Group USA (2004)
Number of Pages: 405
How long it took me to read: 2 weeks
Where I got this book: Uncustomary Book Submission
ISBN: 978-0-446-69728-6

Like a Moth to a Flame

Having been jumping between serious literature and children’s fantasy novels for the last several months, I was in the mood for something a little feminine and fluffy. I don’t actually own a lot of chick lit though (because such works were passed around rather furtively in the feminist intellectual circles I ran during college), so when I saw that Goodbye, Jimmy Choo was available in UBR’s bookstore, I scooped it up.

Favorite Five

I propose that the top 5 quotes from this book are:

5. “Barbie lay on the kitchen worktop, unmoved by the threats and surrounded by cake crumbs. Once more Izzie jerked her upright and, ignoring the accusing stare of the painted blue eyes, thrust her into the top of the cake. This time she went in up to the waist and stayed upright.” (p.1)

4. “Maddy’s eyes filled up with tears, but they didn’t feel like the tears she’d shed over the last few weeks. Not angry and desperate, just sad. The sort of tears that come when your memory’s been stirred and you realize how much you miss the time when life was perfect and uncomplicated.” (p.72)

3. “They went through the story again, with far more aplomb this time and took it in turns to bustle about like headless chickens, engaging in pointless domestic tasks—wiping mushrooms, pretending to churn butter (they’d tipped a few spoonfuls of marge in the bottom of the tub and produced it with pride with a couple of turns of the crank), prodding at the centerpertuis, and slowly melting the beeswax. Pasco pottered around the floor, looking a bit girlie in one of Janet’s treasured baby smocks. They were both hoping he wouldn’t hitch it up to reveal his disposable nappy. By the time they provided lunch—goat’s cheese quiches and a gnarly salad, distressed to make it look homemade—they’d already posed for two rolls of film.” (p.194)

2. “Ten minutes later she was up to her ears in Floris Edwardian Bouquet bubble bath which she’d found discarded at the back of a bathroom cupboard (a Christmas present some years ago from Cynthia), was smoking her one surreptitious fag of the day (trying hard to not get it wet), and flicking through the magazine. God, it seemed like another world. Dinky little suits, delicious shoes, sumptuous fashion spreads. In the past she’d have turned down the corners of some of the pages and made a point of seeking out a bag or a pair of trousers that took her fancy. Now it all seemed like forbidden territory. Look but don’t touch.” (p.266)

…and my pick for the No.1 quote is…

1.… she eased Izzie off the bed, prizing the glass out of her hand and they both weaved their way to the spare room. Izzie grumpily complied with having her new Armani removed, despite her slurred request that she be allowed to sleep in it, and Maddy, stumbling slightly, helped her into the bed. Izzie was barely under the sheets, when she heaved herself out again, struggled into the bathroom, and wasted a good take-away and some very good champagne. Bleary-eyed and shivering, she reappeared from the bathroom a few minutes later, and slipped into bed. Maddy wrapped the duvet around her, then, grabbing a tissue from the bathroom and squeezing on some baby lotion—the nearest thing to hand—she went back to wipe the worst of the makeup from Izzie’s face. By the time she’d made a pathetic but slight improvement, Izzie was fast asleep.” (p.275)

New Words

Words are wondrous creatures. Put them together and they paint a picture. Rearrange them and the scene changes. But to be able to see what they are saying, we must first know what they mean.

New Word: de rigueur (adjective)

Definition (Source: Meriam Webster): prescribed or required by fashion, etiquette, or custom
Synonyms: befitting, correct, decorous
Origins: French; first known use 1833
As in: “Did you notice how all the staff in these shops wear black suits with white T-shirts? It’s sort of gear de rigueur. I think, old girl, it should be our mission to make sprigged cotton the new black.” (p.177)

Conversation with the Reader

While I read, I write, and as I write, I read. Here’s some of what I wrote while I read this book:

“I’m relating to the main characters of this novel in spite of myself. A year and a half ago, my husband swept me off to the American Midwest. In much the same way, at the beginning of Goodbye, Jimmy Choo, their respective husbands ask Izzie and Maddy to abandon their urbane London lifestyles and move to the country. My husband had an excellent job offer straight out of college, excellent except for the requirement that we move to what I considered to be the middle of nowhere, a.k.a Kansas. The truth is, I still struggle with the search for meaningful work, my new identity as a homemaker and occasional freelance writer, and the answer to the most panic-inducing and embarrassing of questions, ‘So what is it you do for a living?’

“At times it’s difficult for me to legitimize the choice I made to put my own career aspirations on hold so that my husband could attain his. I have the nagging insecurity that comes with never having been completely independent, never having lived entirely by my own wits. I was raised to associate financial independence with adulthood. By taking on a domestic role, I fear I have doomed myself to perpetual adolescence.

“On the other hand, this attitude dismisses the experiences of the millions of women who came before me who knew nothing but domestic life. Who am I to say that they were perpetual children because they didn’t earn an income? What I’m enjoying about Goodbye, Jimmy Choo is that rather than picking sides, it is exploring the tension women feel when balancing careers, relationships, and domestic life. I feel the author is trying to understand why women make the choices they do rather than judging them for them.”

“Well, this novel’s taken an unusually dark turn for a piece of chick lit. Could Goodbye, Jimmy Choo be a chick lit novel with substance? Even though the story is turning out to be less fluffy than I thought it would be, I’m still finding myself laughing out loud at the unflinching personal commentary of the protagonists. I’ve always felt that that is where true humor, any true emotion really, lies—in the truthful but impolite assessments that are only voiced in our minds, in all the grin-and-bear-it moments. How much longer is this woman going to talk about her cats? Is the guy behind the counter seriously judging me for getting butter with my bagel instead of cream cheese? A Visa gift card—the wedding present that says, ‘I don’t know you, but I don’t trust you with cash.’ Izzie and Maddy’s situation, having to present a false image to the public in order to preserve and promote their business, puts them in a unique position for self-reflection and prolonged social commentary as they are forced to explore their combined disdain and admiration of their public earth-mother image.”

“While Izzie and Maddy don’t have much respect for organic tomatoes over frozen pizzas or for using aroma therapy rather than prescription medication, they do take obvious pleasure in the making of their product. They derive their authenticity not from the things they consume but from the things they create. As a writer and a handicrafter, this is a concept that rings clear and true with me. I’ve never had much patience with the organic food movement (who in their right mind buys a five dollar tomato?) or with alternative medicine, but I’m determined to overcome my family’s black thumb and plant my own garden someday and will make myself a cup of ginger tea rather than take a Dramamine when I’m feeling nauseous.

“But as my generation was discovering that craving for creative authenticity, the corporations had a flash of brilliance: they would try to sell us authenticity instead. They tried to convince us that the virtue was in the product, rather than in the creation of the product. And, for the most part, they succeeded. I think that is why, as their operation expands, Izzie and Maddy lose sight of the pleasure with which they began their little business. It was the creative authenticity that their rival businesses, fixtures of the cosmetic industry, found so threatening, so worthy of destruction. That even the most jaded and pragmatic of us, like Izzie and Maddy, have creative capability, have the chance to feel the self-satisfaction that comes with making something for its own sake, is something that seriously frightens big business. We might realize that we don’t need to buy things to feel better about ourselves. Now that’s a dangerous thought.”

“In some ways, Goodbye, Jimmy Choo is a novel that embraces duplicity. Izzie and Maddy originally capitalize on the natural ingredient/organic food trends that are passing through modern women’s culture not because they actually believe in the movement, but because it is the best way to market their products, and they do it without a pinch of moral compunction. And why shouldn’t they? Goodbye, Jimmy Choo explores the many different faces we present every day to even the people closest to us: our spouses, our children, and the best of our friends. This is something that I myself have done since I can remember. It was a long time before I realized the danger of making myself over as a different person for different people.

“In its most innocent form, such duplicity is merely a way of adapting to social context. In the office, I’m formal and precise; at home, I’m casual and easygoing. Different social contexts require different behaviors, but the core of who I am remains unchanged. This innocent application, to a degree, carries over into all of my relationships: for example, the social context of dinner with my parents can be very different from the social context of dinner with my husband. That I would adapt my behavior, put on a different face, is expected. Where the danger lies is when I’m no longer sure which of my faces is my true face.

“The biggest idea I’m taking away from Goodbye, Jimmy Choo, I think, is how having that one relationship in your life where you can be your naked self and no one else, can completely change you. I have only had a couple of these kinds of relationships in my life. Sometimes I tell things to these people that I haven’t even been able to say to myself. There are things I can’t let myself believe until the words come out of my mouth, and these words only come out of my mouth for people who I know won’t give me the you’re-making-me-uncomfortable face. I can’t bear to make people uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable. Izzie and Maddy looked for that relationship in all the appropriate places: the acceptable social circles, their extended families, even with their spouses. But it was only in the unique context of their friendship where they were able to find that once-in-a-lifetime vulnerability. That emotional nakedness they find with each other is true intimacy—something I am not as free with as I would like to be, even with the people closest to me.”

About the Author sections rarely intrigue me, but it was interesting to note that Annie Sanders is actually two people, two women, who seem to be digging through life the best they can, just like the rest of us. Reading those last couple of pages, it made sense to me. Goodbye, Jimmy Choo is not a book that could be written by one person, or a man, or someone who didn’t look at life with a healthy dose of skepticism. It would have to be written by people who have shared the kind of relationship that Izzie and Maddy had, who have juggled the children and the careers, who have balked at traditional chick lit even while furtively enjoying it. They wrote a book they would like to read, that related to them, and in the process created something funny and human and warm. For authors who wrote a novel that was ‘emphatically not autobiographical,’ they are great tellers of the truth.”

Rachel Castleberg

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1 Comment

  1. Meg says:

    So glad you enjoyed this. It’s a lovely review!
    Thanks x

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