Twenties Girl (by Sophie Kinsella)

For too many years I avoided books by Sophie Kinsella, being unfairly biased against so -called ‘chick lit’. But when I finally read one of her books, I was converted - and have enjoyed pretty much everything she’s written. Fluffy? Undoubtedly. But never boring.

So I was delighted to find ‘Twenties Girl’ on a church bookstall a few months ago, and picked it up for bedtime reading recently, wanting something light and undemanding. I had not expected to find a ghost story, which is not a genre that generally interests me. But this is no spooky thriller; instead, the ghost is a strong character in her own right, quite stubborn at times. She even sulks.

The story starts with Lara explaining why one sometimes has to lie to parents in order to protect them. It’s a brilliant start to the story which gives an insight not just into Lara’s personality, but to her relationship with her somewhat over-protective parents. We quickly learn that they are all going to the funeral of Great Aunt Sadie, who lived to the age of 105, spending her last couple of decades in a nursing home. Nobody in the family really knew her, and they didn’t even visit her, so Lara isn’t entirely certain why she’s going.

We also meet the fabulously wealthy and rather obnoxious Uncle Bill at the funeral - he owns a coffee kingdom which competes with Starbucks, and has written a popular self-help book about how to get rich.

And just as the drab service is underway, with very few attenders, Lara’s attention is taken up by a voice, belonging to a girl around her own age, who tells her she has to stop the funeral. She succeeds in doing this, to the consternernation of all around her since nobody else can hear the voice or see the girl. She then agrees (somewhat reluctantly) to look for a necklace. The girl is the ghost of her great aunt, appearing as she was in the 1920s.

Most of the book then charts the next few weeks, while Sadie and Lara get to know each other. It’s hard to remember that Sadie is a ghost sometimes, although her mind is firmly in the 1920s and she persuades Lara to wear some outrageous clothes, and to learn the Charleston...

There’s a low-key kind of romantic thread for Lara, who has just broken up with her boyfriend Josh, but is convinced they can get back together. And she also goes on some dates with Ed, an American who Sadie rather fancies, but whom Lara does not find very interesting... at least, at first.

We also learn more of Sadie’s story, which is very cleverly dealt with as Lara starts her search for the necklace - something which she thinks is silly at first, but gradually realises is very important. I had not guessed at some of the revelations that came later in the book, and while I suppose its all rather unlikely, it doesn’t matter - by the last couple of hundred pages, it was very difficult to put it down.

Good writing, amusing in places, poignant in others. Not to be taken too seriously, but excellent as light fiction for a holiday.

Recommended, if you enjoy this kind of surreal but enjoyable story with a good pace, and some mild humour.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 5th April 2013

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