Today will be different by Maria Semple

A review by Nalini Haynes

Eleanor Flood starts out with #firstworldproblems like needing to make a resolution to only wear yoga pants when doing yoga, which she will actually attend. Eleanor’s mantra-resolution could almost have been extracted from Alanis Morissette’s ‘Incomplete’, so she seems relatable on many levels. Also, this mantra-resolution explains the title, Today Will Be Different.

As readers we’re quickly hurled down the rabbit hole. Eleanor is one of the wealthiest women — in ‘lady who lunches’ and celebrity style — at her children’s elite private school. She isn’t relatable. Although she loves her ugly dog, she hates her best friend; I’m not sure she’s even likeable. Then she steals another woman’s keys so I started wondering if she’s mentally ill.

Eleanor used to work on a popular children’s TV series but now she’s reduced to contract work and ducking her editor because her graphic novel — for which she’s been given an advance — is significantly overdue.

There are pages of this graphic novel included in the published version of Today Will Be Different, a definite highlight. As the story unfolds the history of this graphic novel seems contradictory: it’s not finished, yes it is, no it’s not. These continuity snarls threw me out of the story.

At a lunch meeting, Eleanor meets a man she fired. Her partner has taken a week off work, telling his staff he’s out of town — a lie. Eleanor hunts him down with her son and former subordinate in tow.

Eventually all the threads come together, flashbacks explain the present and Eleanor comes to a resolution of sorts.

Today Will Be Different is a farce in the American comedy style (think Arrested Development and Mad About You, both of which Semple worked on) with an unexpected ending that readers will probably either love or hate. I’m not in the loving-the-ending camp but there were some laugh-out-loud moments on the way through, like when Eleanor accidentally phones her editor to discover the state of the publishing industry. Priceless.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
ISBN: 9780297871460
Format: paperback, 288 pages
Imprint: W&N (Hachette)
Today will be different is written like lines for the teacher over a drawing of a woman standing, her hands hiding her face