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Once is Not Enough

By Ava Stern

Once is Not Enough by Jaqueline Susann takes the reader to the 70s to follow the tumultuous life of January Wayne, daughter of a movie mogul, as she runs into tragedy after tragedy. Heavily focused on the Electra complex of January, Susann shows her deepest desires through each life decision she makes. Along with the everlasting competition with anyone her father shows interest in, January channels her subconscious desire through her desired partners, including an older man with a history with her father. After reading this book, I felt satisfied and excited, dreaming of a New York with $100 rent and champagne at the Plaza. Although the novel deals with pretty heavy topics of sex and drugs, the aesthetic and characterization of the main characters are easy to fall in love with.

Throughout the novel, I felt drawn to and fascinated by the character Karla, an immigrant with a sad story who became a worldwide sensation. Her connections to the main character January are complicated, yet she symbolizes the opposite of January. Karla grew up with nothing and had to work very hard and eventually lived a quiet life, whereas January grew up with immense privilege and just then was starting her life. In chapter thirteen, Karla’s whole life is explained. Starting in Wilno, Poland in 1920, an excruciating painful story of her life is told. This chapter provided perspective and a zoomed-out point of view for all the characters in the novel and gave great details that helped me understand the complex character Karla. This element of the book had themes of historical fiction which I greatly appreciated. The use of flashbacks and storytelling was crucial for the characterization of this novel.

“No! She cried out. ‘Once is not enough! Oh, Mother, how did you ever live through it as long as you did!” (Page 464) It always is satisfying to find the title of the book in the text. This quote connects January to her Mother, who left her when she was young. This agonizing cry for help really shows how much January’s Electra complex affected her (no spoilers).

Once is Not Enough is now my second favorite book. I give it 5/5 stars!

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