15/01/2018

My Not So Perfect Life (by Sophie Kinsella)

Sophie Kinsella, best known for her ‘Shopaholic’ series of novels, has a great gift for creating likeable - though flawed - young women protagonists. So when I saw she had another book published last year, I put it straight on my wishlist, and was very pleased to receive it for Christmas recently.

‘My Not so Perfect Life’ is narrated by Katie - or Cat, as she prefers to be known at the start of the book. We meet her on her way to work; she lives in a tiny flat in London, and works for a ‘branding’ company. Her boss, Demeter, is brilliantly creative but absent-minded, and while most of her staff admire her, none of them much like her.

Katie’s home is in Somerset, but she has always hankered after London. And because she doesn’t want her father to know how difficult her life is - she can barely survive on her earnings, and has no social life at all - she takes photos of restaurants and other sights which she posts on Instagram. Katie has tried to become a smart London worker, straightening her hair and changing her abbreviated name, but the persona she portrays online is exaggerated at best, entirely fake at worst.

Katie is somewhat naive, trusting and kind; she’s also ambitious and, as we gradually learn, quite talented in her field. As the most junior person in the office she’s barely noticed, and spends her time filing rather than being creative. A chance encounter with an amusing young man changes the direction of her life, and she determines to be more confident.

The first part of the book takes place in London, and the second part in Somerset, where her father and stepmother are setting up a ‘glamping’(glamour camping) business on their farm. Katie finds herself able to be very useful, not just designing brochures and websites, but helping with guests.

The book is a study in family life, in work relationships, and in Katie’s desire to be accepted in London. It’s about the importance of being honest, too; including acknowledging one’s failings and struggles. There’s a love story too, tastefully done on the whole (albeit with more bad language than I’m comfortable with). And there’s a great deal of humour. I smiled several times at some of Katie’s parenthetical asides; once or twice I even laughed aloud, something I rarely do while reading.

I find Sophie Kinsella’s writing compelling. Last night I read long past the time when I really needed to be asleep, and then I finished the last hundred pages or so this morning, as I couldn't wait to find out how it would all end. The climax to the book is not unexpected; but I quite like guessing correctly how things would turn out, and the way it was done worked well.

It took me a few chapters to get into the book; at first I found Cat rather a sad person, pretending to be someone she wasn't. But I soon warmed to her, and while she reminded me forcibly of some of the author’s other main characters at times, it didn’t matter at all.

Highly recommended to anyone who likes light, well-written women’s fiction. Don’t read the blurb on the back beforehand, however; it gives away some important parts of the plot.

Review by copyright 2018 Sue's Book Reviews

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