great library challenge, I decided to go with Sophie Kinsella because her novels are so hugely popular and I wanted to know what the big deal was.
I have to admit that my expectations were low. So very sadly low, reflecting the state of chicklit, in my opinion. Good ones are very few and far between. But Kinsella delivers on every count: slightly dizzy but very endearing character? Check. Romance? Check. Funny-slash-disastrous situations that make you laugh? Double and triple check. And this is where the books really win out: Kinsella has masterful comic timing and uses it to great effect.
The heroine is the shopaholic herself: disaster-prone Becky Bloomwood, who starts off in the first book (The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic (also published as Confessions of a Shopaholic)) as a bored journalist at a money magazine who is unable to curtail her love of shopping, despite threatening letters from the bank and maxed out store cards. She's irresponsible and a bit ostriche-head-in-sand when it comes to finances, leading her into impending disaster, which of course she'll bounce out of better than ever, and with a super-hot boyfriend to boot.
What did you expect? I told you it was chicklit, right?
In the second novel, Shopaholic Takes Manhattan, her adventures take her to the Big Apple, where super-hot boyfriend Luke Brandon is starting a new branch of his super-successful business. But her super-spending (amongst other things) takes their relationship to the brink of disaster, which she deftly handles in the end, learning a little something along the way.
In the third novel, Shopaholic Ties the Knot, Becky digs herself further and further into a hole with her dithering as Luke comes to terms with his feelings for his birth mother, and two weddings are organised in different continents on the same day.
I have to admit, if Becky was my friend I'd give her a good shake and a talking to, because common sense seems to elude her until she's forced into a position to make good, but it does make for great comic fodder. And despite her dithering and disaster-proneness, she has a good heart. By the end of each novel she seems to grow and develop in character, but at the start of the next novel, she stumbles again, which is probably actually very realistic but could be frustrating if you cared too much.
There are classic chicklit elements that could get tiresome awfully fast (like the impossibly good looking and successful boyfriend, the ability to fall head over ass into good fortune), but Kinsella reinforces Becky's underdog status, ensuring that she remains endearing and flawed, and thus relatable.
In certain respects, Shopaholic reminded me of Bridget Jones's Diary, as Sophie Kinsella and Helen Fielding appear to have very similar comic sensibilities. Personally I think they're both really good writers (which shows in their books), and thankfully they redeem the overwhelming hovel of crap that chicklit tends to attract. Their heroines are larger than life versions of ourselves, and their adventures have a bigger arc with greater romantic rewards than you'd find in reality, which make them a great escape.
I'd highly recommend the Shopaholic series for light reading, suitable for holidays, on the beach, in-flight and when you're feeling down and need a pick up. I only meant to read one but ended up reading three!
There are three more books out now (Shopaholic and Sister, Shopaholic and Baby and Mini-Shopaholic) but I think I'll space them out to avoid overdosing. Thank goodness for Christmas holidays!