Swapping Lives

Swapping Lives

by Jane Green

Paperback(Reprint)

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Overview

The New York Times bestselling author of Falling presents a charming transatlantic take on trading places...
 
Being director of Poise! magazine affords Vicky Townsley a glamorous London life. She has everything she wants—except marriage, children, and a house in the country.
 
Amber Winslow has a stone mansion in Connecticut, two kids, and a nanny. She loves her husband and her children, but that doesn't mean she can’t fantasize about a taste of something a little more...exciting.
 
When a single Londoner and a Connecticut mother get the chance to walk in each other’s shoes for a month things are bound to get interesting. But as they quickly learn, wanting something and actually getting it are two entirely different things...

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780452288508
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/29/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 574,498
Product dimensions: 5.38(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.86(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

A former journalist in the UK and a graduate of the International Culinary Center in New York, Jane Green has written many novels (including Jemima J, The Beach House, and, most recently, Falling), most of which have been New York Times bestsellers, and one cookbook, Good Taste. Her novels are published in more than twenty-five languages, and she has over ten million books in print worldwide. She lives in Westport, Connecticut, with her husband and a small army of children and animals.

Hometown:

Westport, Connecticut

Date of Birth:

May 31, 1968

Place of Birth:

London, England

Education:

"Managed to drop out of Fine Art Degree at University."

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher


GreenÆs writing is deliciously witty and her heroines authentic. This is a charming book that demands, ÆRead me in one sitting!Æ (People)

A perfect summer read . . . funny, poignant. (Toronto Sun)

Green skewers Connecticut suburbia with gleeful relish, and she hits the right marks with sympathetic Londoner Vicky, a quirky, imperfect heroine. (Kirkus Reviews)

Hard to put down . . . thanks to affable leading characters and interesting . . . commentary on the cross-Atlantic cultural gap. (Publishers Weekly)

Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

Amber Winslow (of the New England Winslows) and woman-about-London Vicky Townsley, both eager for a break from their own lives, are about to find out if the grass is greener on the other side of the Atlantic. Though happily married and the mother of two adoring children, Amber feels trapped. She's found herself in an endless cycle of suburban one-upwomanship, constantly competing to be more fashionable and have better taste than women she doesn't even like. Between tackling her self-serving “charity” work, spending ludicrous amounts of money, building a wardrobe a Hollywood starlet would envy, overseeing a gag-inducing redesign of her living room, and striving to be queen bee, Amber's too exhausted to be a good mother, much less a good wife.

While Amber thinks back to a simpler time when she was independent and single, Vicky sits dreaming of a more stable and domestic life for herself than the one she's living in London. Single just isn't where she expected to be at thirty-five. Sure, she has her brother and his family to visit in the country; but it's just not the same as having a family of her own. What's worse is always being told by her married friends that she doesn't know how good she really has it. Easy for them to say—they don't have to deal with her ongoing battle with dead-end relationships and having no one (well, except for her conveniently close-at-hand and not-too-demanding neighbor Daniel) to cuddle with on chilly evenings. She wants to get out of this rut, even for just a little while.

So what if two women really did it, if they really swapped lives? The editor of Poise! magazine, where Vicky is features director, thinks it's a great idea for a story, and Amber looks like the perfect woman to make the trade. But could this possibly be a good idea? What woman in her right mind would leave her husband and children for a whole month? And what woman in her right mind would spend a month pretending to be married to a perfect stranger? In their pursuit to understand each other's lives, Amber and Vicky discover much more about their own. And it is these discoveries that help both women learn the most valuable lesson of all: If the grass on the other side looks more appealing, don't run for greener pastures; your own grass might just need a little tending.


ABOUT JANE GREEN

Jane Green is the author of eight bestselling novels, including The Other Woman, To Have and to Hold, andJemima J. She lives in Connecticut with her family.


A CONVERSATION WITH JANE GREEN

What gave you the idea for Swapping Lives?

I can never remember quite where the inspiration for my books comes from, but I knew that there were times when I looked at women who were single and felt a slight envy. Not that I wanted to swap with them, but there were things I missed: the freedom, the anticipation of not knowing where life would take you. And yet, when I was single, I thought that getting married was the ultimate “happily ever after,” the end of the fairytale, and really had no concept of what marriage itself is all about.

With the characters of Suzy and Nadine, in particular, you take an unflinching look at the superficial friendships shared by some women. Why do you think these women choose this sort of friendship and allow it to continue?

I think women are very good at compartmentalizing their friends. I have some friends I go to for their wisdom and compassion, always the best when I am having a crisis. Others I wouldn't dream of confiding in, and yet I love them for their humor, their energy, their ability to make me laugh. I have had various unhealthy, toxic friendships over the years, and like to think that I am of an age now where I tend to recognize the unhealthy ones and get out quicker. There have certainly been instances in the past when I have attracted friends who have not served me well, and it is only afterward that I realize I was either meeting one of their needs—often in my case their need to be needed—or they were meeting one of mine. I tend to avoid superficial friendships these days, and am fairly careful about my inner circle, but so many of my friends are not like that and are able to have friends who they can enjoy on a superficial level for any one of a variety of reasons.

Would you talk about your own experiences navigating the differences between living in England and the United States?

I've been here in the States five and a half years now, and have to say I feel incredibly American. I'd always visited the States, from when I was tiny, and it honestly did feel like coming home for me. I have always loved the way people here involve themselves in the community: from mothers getting involved in the schools to charity work. So many people give of themselves, which I had never seen before.

Reality television shows like Wife Swap got their start in England. What is it that you think people find so fascinating about the genre? Is it pure voyeurism or the desire to see others on television and think, “OK, I'm not that bad after all”—or something else entirely?

Oh, I think it's pure voyeurism. I will confess that in my early twenties I used to walk my dog every evening at twilight just to peer into people's basement flats to see how they lived. It was fascinating, and reality TV is much the same thing.

You have a lot in common with both Amber and Vicky. To which of the characters do you feel closest?

Vicky is very much who I would have been had I not been married at thirty. And Amber's dilemmas were very much my dilemmas living in an affluent suburb. There were so many good things about my town, but for a while all I was able to see was the bad, the social climbing, the keeping up with the Joneses. Of course it was only with hindsight that I was able to see that my unhappiness had less to do with my town and more to do with things going on in my personal life, which I think is so often the case. When we start finding fault with everything, generally there's something much closer to home that is causing us pain.

Who are some authors you most admire? Have any been particularly influential? What are you reading now?

I'm a huge fan of Jonathan Tropper. Also Patrick Gale, Ann Patchett. Anything by Marian Keyes is always a treat, and my current favourite is A Family Daughter by Maile Meloy.

What are you working on now?

I'm sadly selling my beloved farm in the country and moving back to the real-life equivalent of Highfield, tail between my legs and eating lots of humble pie. I did rather worry that Fairfield county would never let me back, but I have found living in the country to be far more isolated and lonely than I had anticipated, and various life changes have meant it is necessary for me to be close to my friends right now. But as soon as I move I will be getting back to work on my new book, which is about a group of school friends who are reunited after one of their group dies.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • If you had the opportunity to switch lives like Amber and Vicky did, would you be willing to do so? For whom do you think the swap would be more difficult—a wife and mother leaving her husband and children for a month or a single woman trying to play mom and wife to strangers?
     
  • In your opinion, who walks away more changed after the swap: Amber, who sees everything that's been wrong with her life, or Vicky, who has a new appreciation for hers?
     
  • Vicky's pre-swap relationships seem to follow a not-so-healthy pattern. Describe this pattern. In what ways does her relationship with Daniel, for example, influence her ability to have a healthy, long-term relationship?
     
  • Life in Highfield surprises Richard and Amber—it's more like Manhattan than they'd imagined. Do you think social status plays an equal role regardless of whether one lives in a large city or small town? What are some of the differences? What are some of the similarities?
     
  • Swapping Lives abounds in examples of adults being susceptible to what can only be called peer pressure. Discuss the role of such concerns in the novel. Reflect on occasions in your own life when, as an adult, you've unwittingly given in to peer pressure.
     
  • Vicky's identity seems to be wrapped up in her work. Amber, on the other hand, laments ever having stopped working. In your opinion, how much of women's self-esteem is connected to their occupations? Discuss some examples of women—whether in fiction, film, or real life—who have managed to strike a balance between career and family?
     
  • What do you think about Amber as a mother? What do you think should be her steps toward improvement?
  • Customer Reviews

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    Swapping Lives 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 68 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Swapping Lives is a cute, quick weekend read. Jane Green reminds us that the grass is not always greener on the other side. It's not her best book, but it is one that shouldn't be missed. The characters are real and likable, without being far fetched.
    risuena More than 1 year ago
    I think the whole appreciate your life and things are not always better elsewhere is a good theme, but the author's delivery is not very catching. I thought the story was very slow, and I didn't grow attached to any one of the characters. I had sympathy for their situations and saw how real their problems can be, but it wasn't enough for me. The book just didn't hook me. It had good intentions, therefore I finished it, but I probably wouldn't reread it.
    NancyChase More than 1 year ago
    I've always enjoyed Jane Green's books and "Swapping Lives" is no exception. The story was interesting, but not a surprise since the subject of swapping something, homes, mates, work, etc has been around for awhile. The characters in the story were believable, especially Vicky and Amber. I read the book over a two day period, so for me it was a fast read, but an enjoyable read. I won't say it was one of Jane Green best, but it was still a wonderful read.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    I first picked up this book because I LOVE the show wife swap. This is probably my second favorite Jane Green book. You really get to now the characters in the story which make it so much more real than other authors do with their characters. At first I thought there was going to be a LOT more drama but was pleasntly surprised that there wasnt. (I didnt want another 'To have and to Hold' on my hands.) Read the book.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    I will say that I was very interested in this book all throughout but Green did take quite some time to get to the point she intended to make. I wish she would have developed some of the characters more. The main point of the book was fantastic in that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. I think we have all wondered at some point what it would be like to live our lives another way. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys witty writing and fun characters with vivid imagination.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    While Jane Green's books are always very elementary, they are fun and a nice break from stressful, everyday life. 'Swapping Lives' is no exception. 'Jemima J', however will always remain my favorite of Ms. Green's books.
    bookweaver on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    This book makes okay escape reading, but several of the details don't really hold up, making the book not quite believable. It's nice that the book treats men as a part of women's lives rather than the focus.
    Librarygirl66 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Two women who think their bliss lies elsewhere walk in each other's shoes for a month only to discover that happiness is closer than they ever thought in this sharply observed chronicle of the lives of modern women.
    Bonni208 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    I had a hard time getting in to this book. Jane Green is an excellent author and typically her characters are more complex than the ones in this book (at least how they were initially portrayed). Just when I started to feel something for the characters and become interested in their lives, the book ended. It might be a fun read for a singleton or a 'desperate housewife,' but this happily married person found the plot and the characters a bit lacking. I most enjoyed the last 20% of the book, however.
    Mzkitty570 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    I think this book was a good read. Wasn't a page-turner for me but I was able to get through it. This is one of those "greener on the other side of the fence¿ stories. Someone is not happy with what they have and wants to find out if what they wish for could be worth the wait. The two women who switched lives, Vicky (35 & a Poise Magazine editor) and Amber (housewife, mother of 2) didn't stick it out for the whole month. It took too long to get to the ¿life swap¿ and then it ended up not going the distance. I don't think this was a true telling on how the other half lives. I've read in other reviews that Jane Green's earlier books were better. I will let you know.
    mcelhra on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Swapping Lives is the story of Vickie Townsley and Amber Winslow. Vickie is the features director at Poise magazine in England and is living the life of an urban, single woman in her mid-thirties. Amber is a rich housewife in Connecticut. Amber enters and wins a contest sponsored Poise magazine to swap lives with Vickie for a month to see if the grass really is greener on the other side. Is being a single girl as carefree and fun as it seems? Is being a rich, suburban housewife less stressful than being a career gal?This was definitely a fluffy, chick-lit book. It was entertaining to read about Amber¿s McMansion and her superficial social circle of Junior League friends. At the same time, I think reading it while currently experiencing a horrible economy (in real life) took some of the fun out of it. Amber¿s friends, and to a lesser extent Amber, are so materialistic it¿s almost unbelievable. When Amber is living Vickie¿s life in England, she¿s incredulous that one of Vickie¿s stay at home mom friends actually takes care of her two children WITHOUT A NANNY. Maybe some wealthy people really are that clueless to how regular people live but Amber¿s character grew up in a trailer park so I found it hard to believe in her case.One thing that irritated me about this book is the lack of editing of the American dialogue. This book is written by an English woman and I would think someone would check the dialogue of the American characters to make sure it¿s authentic. But the American characters say things like, ¿He just turned up¿ and ¿I want a proper dinner¿. One English character tells an American character that they are being ¿saucy¿ and the American character had never heard of that word. It¿s not really a big deal but it was distracting.This was a good book to listen to in the car ¿ it didn¿t require much deep thought but was light and fun. It would be a good summer beach read too.
    greshle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Very entertaining audio book. Great reading by a british woman who really adds to the book by her various voices and accents. I found myself laughing outloud many times. Worth a read.
    coolmama on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Perfect mindless beach book.Two women swap lives (Connecticut suburbs and London).No "revelations" made to the reader, but of course, to the vapid characters.Pretty mindless.
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