The Difference Between You and Me
Oooooooof, y’all. This book and I did not get along. First of all, it’s told in first person present tense. Jarring, confusing, and not for me. Second of all, the main character is not a super pleasant person and I never quite found a reason to root for her. Overall, The Difference Between You and Me was not a pleasant read and is not one I can confidently recommend to others.
The plot goes like this. Trudy’s life is fantastic. She’s engaged to a high-flying dude, has a posh flat, and a job she’s great at. There are some hiccups with the future in-laws, but nothing Trudy can’t take in her stride. Then everything begins to crumble in epic fashion, culminating in a cancelled engagement and a job transfer. Instead of working in the heart of London, she’s being sent to Scotland to turn around a failing branch of the bank she works for.
I was already confused by this point, to be honest. The lines of dialogue don’t always come with clear assignments as to who is saying them, and I found myself re-reading passages and flipping pages back, saying outloud “wait, what? Who said that? What is HAPPENING?!” far too frequently. However, I soldiered on.
Upon arrival in the tiny town of Turriff, Trudy meets Ethan, the owner of the local pub. She also tells us that the housing is below her standards, Turriff is too remote, and we get the full feeling of her panic when her internet is out for two days and she loses access to social media. She also spends those first few days letting everyone know how not ‘London’ they are, which endeared neither them nor me to her.
I understand the feeling of being a fish out of water; how scary, how overwhelming, how confusing it can be. Perhaps that is why I have so little patience for being in the head of someone who spent so much time in this book deciding that the way of life in this new place was bad. Not just different, but deficient. I couldn’t blame Ethan for having no time for her; in fact, I can’t really understand why his opinion of her changed! I can tell the book wants me to believe their chemistry is automatic, but because of the narrative device, all I really knew was that Trudy was instantly attracted to Ethan. As we got no real insight into Ethan, and the book gives no narrative space between the past and present, it was really hard to get a read on him. This is a challenge in most first person PoV books, but it is exacerbated by the author’s choice to use the present tense.
The other side effect of this decision is that Turriff and its inhabitants come off as caricatures instead of characters. Most of them feel like groupings of Scottish tropes rather than people, and that only added to my inability to connect to the story.
Trudy, for her part, does go through some significant life decisions in the course of the story, and the plot is based around her journey towards loving both Ethan and Turriff. Your ability to hang in with this book is, as far as I’m concerned, entirely dependent on whether or not you can deal with the jarring writing style and if you can deal with it long enough to get to the point where Trudy starts to change. I disliked it so much that if I hadn’t been reviewing The Difference Between You and Me, I would simply not have persevered.