Mini Shopaholic (by Sophie Kinsella)

I came only relatively recently in my reading life to Sophie Kinsella, and with some reluctance at first, biased against so-called 'chick lit'. But I'm glad I started reading her books, even the Shopaholic series, loved by some and castigated as materialist nonsense by others. So when I saw the final volume in a charity shop at the end of last year, I snapped it up.

It took me this long to get around to reading it, but I enjoyed it very much. 'Mini Shopaholic' features two-year-old Minnie, who was born at the end of 'Shopaholic and Baby', as well as Luke and Becky who are still living with her parents.

Becky and Luke are beginning to wonder whether they are raising a normal child or not, when Minnie is banned from a Father Christmas grotto... and it's not the first time. Her favourite word is 'mine!' and she is extremely strong-willed. Luke finally convinces Becky that they should employ a super-nanny, although her mother is rather offended.

Becky would really like another baby, and Luke is horrified at the idea of introducing another child into their somewhat chaotic environment. But then Luke seems to be behaving rather oddly in a lot of ways, and is getting very stressed with work.

Meanwhile, the banks seem to be collapsing, and everyone is trying to cut back on spending. Becky agrees not to buy anything new until she has worn all her previous purchases... the ones taking up the majority of her parents' home, some of which have not even been unwrapped. They hope to move out soon, into their own home, and her parents are counting the hours... then it all falls through, and Becky can't think how to tell them. So she makes up a story, which, as always with Becky's stories, becomes an extremely complicated web of white lies.

Oh, and Luke's birthday is approaching. Becky determines to organise a huge surprise party for him, taking his office PA into her confidence. Very few people know about it at first, but by the day before the party the news has been leaked to millions... can she continue to keep it a secret from Luke?

At one level it's all remarkably silly, and materialistic, and nobody could really be quite so addicted to shopping as Becky is. At the same time, it was almost impossible to put this book down, once I had started. Sophie Kinsella has a great gift of setting just the right pace, throwing in some unexpected humour (I laughed aloud at one point, which is very unusual for me) and interspersing just enough emotion to pull, ever so slightly, at my heartstrings.

For Becky means well. She's generous and loving, and really does want the best for the many people she loves, even if her impulses frequently get her into trouble.

The writing is good, too. I wasn't jarred by bad grammar or tense switches, I wasn't annoyed by unrealistic conversation. There were some instances of bad language, but they weren't unreasonable or over-used, and the scenes of intimacy, of which there were several, were firmly behind closed doors: implied at, but never described.

This is the final volume of the Shopaholic series (at least, so far...) and is best read after at least some of the others. If you can suspend reality enough to enjoy this kind of light, fluffy 'chick-lit', then in my opinion, this is a good read.

In print still on both sides of the Atlantic, widely available second-hand, and also published in Kindle form.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 1st October 2012

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