The Lifestyle by Taylor Hahn—Book Review – AFTER THE LAST PAGE
- 319 pages
- Debut novel
- Contemporary Romance
- Features “Swingers”
- Love Triangle
- Inspired by Emma
In The Lifestyle, Georgina has the perfect life. She has a great apartment in New York City, she works as a partner at a prestigious law firm, and she’s happily married to a sensible man she loves. Yet, their relationship doesn’t seem to delve beyond work lately, which often bothers Georgina. When Georgina comes back from a meeting with a client, and sees her husband’s office light on, she takes the opportunity to spice things up—except when she opens the door, he’s already with another woman.
Heartbroken, Georgina is quick to think about leaving Nathan, but she has no clue how she’d survive on her own. After all, her marriage is the one all of her friends admire, right? With a bit of trepidation, Georgina takes some advice from a client and decides she knows exactly what will save her marriage—her and Nathan will become swingers.
As Georgina decides to enter the world of swinging, she turns to her friends for support, only to learn that they are having trouble in their own relationships, too. Together, the three friends take their respective partners and start a new adventure that they hope will reignite romance and help each other to reconnect.
I’ll be honest, I never expected to pick up a book about swingers. Yet, when I saw this month’s Book of The Month selections, it was impossible not to order it. After all, you guys know just how much I love reading books about topics I’ve never read about before. That being said, I’ll admit that it’s a little weird that I read a book about nuns and a book about swingers all in the same month.
Getting into The Lifestyle, I had a bit of a hard time. The first chapter was great, but I didn’t love how the friend groups were introduced. There’s maybe a good ten pages of background information about these characters that I didn’t feel was necessarily needed. Though, as an Emma retelling, this might be a device Hahn wanted to use to establish similarity between the two novels.
If you read my recent review about Ayesha At Last, I focused quite a bit of my review on the similarities (or lack of) between the book and Pride and Prejudice. While I’d like to do that for The Lifestyle, I have to be honest and admit that I haven’t read Emma, even though I’m familiar with the story (I guess that’s my cue to add it to my TBR list). So, for my sake, I’m not going to analyze that aspect of this book.
However, I do want to talk about the characters in this book. There are essentially three couples—Georgina and Nathan (our protagonists), Norah and Ari, and Felix and Alina. Each of the characters are wildly different, which certainly makes this story interesting.
Georgina and Nathan are the typical unhappy married couple. They’ve been together for about seven years, and yet they have already lost their spark. They’re both committed to their work, but that doesn’t seem to bring them any closer together. I honestly didn’t see these two as a working couple. They both have such different personalities and Georgina almost seems to view Nathan condescendingly. There are a few scenes in this book that made me wonder why she wanted to stay with him, though she admits, after finding Nathan cheating, that she doesn’t want to start over—presumably because it would be difficult.
“Georgina tried to imagine leaving Nathan and starting over. He’d move out or she would. Either way, she’d live alone, cooking for one, or eating at the office because she’d have no one to go home to. She’d have to start dating again, creating web profiles on Match.com or whatever apps people in their thirties and forties used these days.”Taylor Hahn, The Lifestyle (44)
While we don’t know Georgina well yet at this point, it infuriated me to listen to her say this to herself. As someone who’s been in and left a long-term relationship (of seven years, actually), leaving is one of the most empowering things you can do. Yet, for as old as Georgina is, she isn’t exceptionally wise when it comes to relationships, even though she claims to be.
Georgina actually claims that she’s what brought Norah and Ari together, as well, though she regrets match-making the couple later on. Norah and Ari are also a couple that seem un-suited to each other, connected only by their children.
The three couples encapsulate the most popular relationship problems: cheating, outgrowing each other, and incompatibility. To combat these problems, rather than immediately leave each other, they jump into the swinger lifestyle together.
One aspect I really loved about the swinger group was the personalities of each character. They all have very loud, eccentric personalities that determine how they behave in the bedroom. Each character “touches” Georgina in some way, almost like a personal to-do list to get her to her happy ending (puns intended?). Yet, every single character (aside from Georgina’s friends) is in committed, happy relationships that seem to benefit from the swinger lifestyle.
Something interesting about The Lifestyle that I hadn’t expected was the lack of sex scenes. Although this is a book about sex, it’s also not—it’s about Georgina finding herself (though there is plenty of romance, too!). While there are some sex scenes, none of them are particularly spicy or educating–instead they are about Georgina’s perspective of the scenes and how she grows from them.
The Lifestyle is really about people pleasing versus pleasing yourself. Georgina has to learn to stop trying to make other people happy and instead, make herself happy. It takes her much of the book to figure this out, especially given her obsession with matchmaking when her own relationship is in shambles. Georgina is constantly trying to put on a front for her friends, and it isn’t until she finally lets go that she begins to truly find herself.
Because of Georgina’s unique perspective, I’d consider her an unreliable narrator—though not one I was upset by. While unreliable narrators can be frustrating, I didn’t see Georgina that way. She is entirely unsure of what she wants, even though she seem to have it all, and in some ways, that makes her character stronger because she is realistic.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Lifestyle. I thought it was really unique perspective on an age-old genre, and I really appreciated the love triangle Hahn crafts to satisfy Georgina’s romantic side. While I can’t attest to this book’s similarities to Emma, I did think that it was an engaging read that kept me interested the whole way through.
If you’ve already read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the idea of this book being an Emma re-telling and whether you would rate it the same as I would. Be sure to comment on this post and subscribe to the blog for updates. New reviews are posted every Saturday and blog posts are posted on Tuesdays.
Not sure what to read next? Be sure to check out my last review, Lessons In Chemistry.