TBR CHALLENGE: February 2017
Bonjour my pretties.
I have, (it’s entirely possible) complained about our Australian Summers before. So I won’t bore you with long whingy details again – suffice to say it is hot.
So unbelievably hot.
And it’s not like it’s normally cold…but 45 degree days that last for entire weeks without even the bone of rain are BRUTAL.
I know. Shut up.
They sap your strength and make you cranky. It makes your cats think you are unnecessarily punishing them, which makes them cranky. Basically it has been a frightful fortnight of extremely crabby people (including fur-people) at my house.
So I haven’t been reading.
But Valancy, what have you been doing if you haven’t been reading?
Why, lying in pools of sweat, trying to find cracks in my floorboards where teeny tiny breezes may manage to make their way in… so nothing weird or anything…
But last couple of nights it rained. And then stormed. And everything cooled down just enough that I could pick up a book.
Thus I ended up with Sophie Kinsella’s My Not So Perfect Life, which fits in with Wendy our Awesomesauce Super Librarian’s TBR Challenge for February: New-to-You Author
Ahh Chick Lit.
It’s not that I HATE chick lit per sae…but it does tend to come gift wrapped with all the tropey terribleness that is bad romance, without even giving you the decency of an actual proper romance.
There are, I am sure, many examples of exemplary chick lit novels. But I think they must duck back into their shelves all invisible-like when I go past them, because I have NEVER had a pleasant experience with one.
Chick lit is all, finding yourself and following your dreams, and ending up with your randomly selected too-good-to-be-true love interest, but there always seem to be too many shoes, and over abundance of on-trend name dropping and ridiculous situations that have no inherent purpose.
Sophie Kinsella’s Not So Pefect Life (she of the Shopaholic’s fame) is exactly this, but by is so well written, you kind of don’t care. Due in no small part to the excellent characterisation of Katie. Or Cat as she wanted to be called.
Katie, a Somerset girl through and through, has moved to London to follow her dream of getting into marketing. Her life is a daily struggle to pay rent, eat food, survive renting her matchbox sized room and negotiate her way through the office politics of her job.
Her boss is Demeter
“The name Demeter actually means ‘goddess of the harvest,’ ” Demeter replies, looking smug. “There’s a very rural, down-to-earth side to me. I mean, I always shop in farmers’ markets when I can.”
Demeter appears perfect. The perfect life, husband, 2.0 children. She has an unassailable grasp on her job and has magnificent brainwaves at the most opportune times.
In everyway, Katie wishes her minuscule apartment, 1 hour and 25 minute commute and ramen noodle-like existence was more like Demeter’s.
So she fakes it.
“The gray December air is like iron in my chest, but I feel good. The day’s begun. I’m on my way.
My coat’s pretty warm, even though it cost £9.99 and came from the flea market. It had a label in it, CHRISTIN BIOR, but I cut it out as soon as I got home. You can’t work where I work and have CHRISTIN BIOR in your coat. You could have a genuine vintage Christian Dior label. Or something Japanese. Or maybe no label because you make your clothes yourself out of retro fabrics that you source at Alfies Antiques.
But not CHRISTIN BIOR.”
She fakes her Instagram:
“I find a gorgeous photo of a hot chocolate with marshmallows, which I took the other day. It wasn’t actually my hot chocolate, it was on an outside table at a café in Marylebone. The girl had gone to the ladies’ and I swooped in for a picture.
OK, full disclosure: I stalk expensive cafés for Instagrammable pictures. Is there anything wrong with that? I’m not saying I drank the hot chocolate. I’m saying, Look: hot chocolate! If people assume it was mine…well, that’s up to them.”
What Katie wants everyone to think her life is like, and what her life is actually like??? Two VERY different things. But she figures EVENTUALLY her life will be like that right? So what’s wrong with pretending that that’s what it’s like now??
But plot complications rear their ugly head. There are job losses and unrequited love, humilating Christmas parties and a whole load more. Katie is forced to move back home and work out what she really wants to do with her life.
There is, I am warning you an embarrassing revenge sequence when Katie encounters Demeter in the second half of the book – and I am one who HATES petty revenge scenarios. I can’t stand them.
I can run with all of those. But juvenile spite to pay back someone for a perceived injustice??
I just can’t. You are a tiny person and we can never be friends.
And although I do still hold it against her, I am willing to give it a small pass because of the IMMENSE amount of personal growth that Katie does achieve in the book. We all make stupid decisions from time to time, so I will allow it in the name of character development.
I think the thing that I really liked was the writing. It’s conversational and confiding. Katie’s voice is pragmatic and droll and a little bit cynical, but mostly it is funny. There are these random thoughts and anecdotal observations that are so spot on they caught me instantly and I wanted to know more.
“Well, I’m supposed to be seeing this guy called Ant, only I think he’s going off me.” She looks disconsolate. “He never replies to my texts….”
“I know, right? What’s so hard about sending a text?”
“They think sending a text makes them lose part of their soul,” I say.
Also Kinsella’s characterisations are fabulous, and develop in this really clever way throughout the book.
“It suddenly hits me: That’s why they’re both in Copenhagen. I can see them now, in a Scandi hotel room, having sex in some amazing athletic position that nobody else does except Demeter, because she’s the first person on the whole planet to have found out about it.”
“My dad… can make you weep because he sold your precious matching bedroom-furniture set with no warning to a guy from Bruton who gave him a really good deal. (I was fifteen. And what I still don’t get is, how did the guy from Bruton even know about my bedroom furniture?)…Anyway, that’s Dad. He’s not exactly what he seems. Then, the minute you’ve worked that out, he is exactly what he seems.”
And the best part of all is the way Katie starts to own herself. Her problems, her issues, her life.
“So I’m embarrassed now,” I resume. “Really embarrassed. Of course I am. But you know something? I’m owning my embarrassment. I’m not hiding or playing games.” I lift my chin, high and resolute. “Here I am: Katie Brenner, Embarrassed. There are worse things to be.”
(Note the chin (!))
It’s heartening at the very least and liberating at the most. And that, despite it’s chick-lit-y-ness is what makes it completely readable. I don’t know if I’ll read any more of Kinsella, but this one, at this moment??
Totally worth checking out.
Valancy: wondering how many diamantes you need before it stops being merely camping…and starts being GLAMPING.
Header Image: Still Life with Peonies, Theodore Clement Steele, 1915.