Read the full review at Tales Between the Pages
This book surprised me. I came into it having watched the movie, which was very light hearted. The first half of the book was quite a bit deeper than I expected. There were moments of beauty and heartache and despair. Annie's story resonated with me more than any of the other women, which surprised me. Her emotions felt the most real to me. Her husband was the most despicable out of all of them (even the megalomanic/woman beater). Annie's husband only left her but refused to acknowledge their daughter with Down's Syndrome. AND he only really liked his first born son. The middle son was always neglected because he saw how special his sister is. OH. And he gambled away his daughter's trust fund on the stock market. That was the money that was supposed to sustain her lifestyle at a special school. Annie had to sell everything she owned in order to make sure her daughter would have a happy, healthy, and normal life at Sylvan Glades. Despite all that, I think it was Annie's loneliness really resonated with me. I've been that lonely before so I could relate to her on a very deep emotional level. Annie's character is so much deeper than the Diana Keaton portrayal of her in the movie.
Right around the 50% mark in the book, Olivia Goldsmith changed her writing style. The chapters shifted from these detailed character moments that were really introspective to these choppy chapters that jumped around. You know what I'm talking about when I say choppy chapters -- the kind of chapters that jump POV's and are separated by a few line spaces and a ***. I might not have had a problem with this if she hadn't just decided to start doing it in the middle of the novel. To be honest, I didn't care what the minor society characters were thinking/talking about. I was invested in and cared about the main characters. To have moments without them showed me that Goldsmith lost her way a little bit toward the end. It seems like she felt compelled to include ALL THE THINGS rather than the most important. My little gripes here are what kept me from giving this a four star review.
However, I found The First Wives Club by Olivia Goldsmith to be the precursor to what we think of as chick lit. I read a review on Goodreads that called the book "the grandmother of chick lit." I think that's an apt description. This was published before Carrie Bradshaw and Bridget Jones hit the scene. I can't say that Goldsmith intended on creating a new genre that's marketed to women but I think she and the book are probably as close as we can get to that moment where authors and publishers realized that female readers were their most powerful demographic.
All in all, the book was DEFINITELY better than the movie and quite an enjoyable read. If you've ever been scorned and/or lonely, you'll be able to identify with Elise, Brenda, and Annie.