Louisa Clark, literary cousin to Bridget Jones, returns in Jojo Moyes’ “Still Me,” a romance that wraps up like a sparkling bow. This time, the 28-year-old arrives in New York City, ready for anything. Her friend Nathan (whom loyal readers will recognize from Moyes’ previous two novels) has found her a job as a “social secretary” to the wealthy Gopniks, Leonard and his new wife, Agnes, who live in a duplex overlooking Central Park: “just your average dysfunctional multimillionaire family.”
Louisa has left her too-perfect paramedic boyfriend Sam on the other side of the ocean and is ready to say yes to everything. The initial energy of the story is compelling and readers are sure to fall for Louisa’s shining vision of New York, covered with a fine Champagne mist.
She says, “I looked up through gritty eyes and there it was across the Brooklyn Bridge — Manhattan — shining like a million jagged shards of light; awe-inspiring, glossy, impossibly condensed and beautiful, a sight that was so familiar from television and films that I couldn’t quite accept I was seeing it for real.”
There’s joy in watching Louisa flounce around, giddy, as she pictures herself in a Nora Ephron movie, complete with unexpected moments. “I was fully present, my senses alive, my whole being open to receive the new experiences around me. I was in the only place in the world I could possibly be. And then, apropos of apparently nothing, two women at the next table launched into a fist fight.”
And there’s the pleasure of peeking in on New York’s skyscraper-high society: glamorous charity balls, exclusive luncheons, and a gleaming house buzzing with cleaners, florists, pet behaviorists, etc. However, these moments soon fizzle and, predictable, stiff characters emerge, weighing down the excitement: from Ashok, the big-hearted doorman, to Tab, the Gopniks’ snobby daughter, to Ilaria the moody maid to the Gopniks themselves.
Moyes doesn’t spend enough time with anyone in Louisa’s life and so their predicaments feel paper-thin. Louisa helps ease Agnes Gopnik’s discomfort as an outsider in a new social class, as the young, second bride of Leonard. Meanwhile, Sam’s new co-worker, “who sounds — and looks — like Pussy Galore,” seems to be angling for more than a work relationship.
Louisa’s sympathetic nature and her easy humor that stands up even during tough times are endearing qualities, but not enough to fully satisfy. By the time Louisa takes the advice from a no-nonsense neighbor, “You know, I think at some point, dear, you’re going to have to work out who Louisa Clark really is,” readers will be screaming the very same thing.
Erin Lewenauer holds degrees from Vassar College and the University of Pittsburgh in English, French and creative writing. She writes for Publishers Weekly, Rain Taxi and other publications. She lives in Milwaukee.
By: Jojo Moyes.
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books/Viking Press, 390 pages, $27.