Shopaholic and Sister (by Sophie Kinsella)

I'm not a fan of so-called 'chick-lit'.

At least, I haven't been. I've been put off by the trite-looking primary coloured covers of many books, with strange pictures and odd-looking fonts for the titles. If that sounds very shallow, I should add that I have read a small number of books in the chick-lit genre, and on the whole have not been impressed. They seem to feature unbelievable people with few morals, unlikely plots and badly-written sex scenes.

Thus until this week, I have never picked up anything by Sophie Kinsella, who is one of the most popular chick-lit writers.

But, two or three times I have come across reviews written by people I respect, saying how surprised they were at the quality of this author's writing. For instance, a review of 'Shopaholic and Baby' at the bookbag site.

So when I saw a copy of 'Shopaholic and Sister' for 50c in a charity shop, in good condition, I thought perhaps I would try one for myself.

The book opens with Becky and Luke Brandon sitting on yoga mats, during their lengthy honeymoon.

Actually, it starts before that with a couple of amusing letters to Becky from various shipping companies, making it clear that she has bought a large quantity of unsuitable souvenirs from around the world, and wants to ship them home. Through the book there are occasional typed letters included, mostly from banks or shops, which I thought a good plot device.

Becky narrates the story, so we see everything from her perspective. I was prepared to dislike her, expecting her to be shallow and greedy. But she is very cleverly written: she must surely be based on somebody real. For Becky is impulsive and impatient. She doesn't think through her words or actions, just leaping in spontaneously.

However she is also unfailingly generous, warm-hearted and loyal, and (mostly) very honest. She always wants what is best for everyone, although she has a hard time understanding those who are more introspective. She is positive about life and the world around her.

Oh, and she's a compulsive shopper.

Luke and Becky decide to finish their honeymoon and return to the UK. There they discover that Becky's best friend Suze has a new best friend, that her parents don't seem pleased to see her, and that Luke seems to care more about his career than about Becky. There's also the little problem that Becky has been spending far more than Luke knows about, and she becomes afraid to tell him about a particularly extravagant purchase she made in Milan.

So there are lots of subplots to this book, which were interwoven well. Despite not having read any of the previous books, I had no problem with the characters, who were introduced gradually and easily distinguishable. I felt that I knew Becky already, as she was so similar to someone I know, and despite being very different from her I was able to see the world through her eyes.

Towards the end of the book, there are some very moving sections. Becky reveals much deeper feelings than are at first obvious, considerable intelligence, and some excellent ideas to motivate others. She realises, too, something of how other people perceive her, and doesn't see how much they value her sense of spontaneity, her generosity, and her ability to make life fun.

So, the characters are believable (albeit with a few odd quirks), the plot lines interesting and realistic (even if a little dramatic at times), and the nearest the book comes to a love scene was when Luke gives his wife a kiss.

All in all, I was impressed. I shall be looking out for others in the series!

The Shopaholic books seem to remain constantly in print, and are also widely available at charity and second-hand shops. 


chicagopoetry said...

I recently completed a full length book about memory and the human mind. The book is called Disco Hypnotic. More information can be found at DiscoHypnotic.com. Any comments or review would be most appreciated.

Sue said...

Sorry, not at all my kind of book!