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.
16 thoughts on “My Not So Perfect Life, Sophie Kinsella, (or petty revenge and the dubious rise of glamping…)”
A Kinsella with some actual romance is _Remember Me?_. Perhaps no coincidentally, it’s the only one of hers I’ve really liked. 🙂
Oooh – nice! Thank you for the rec…I am going to look that one up – because life is too short to read books without proper romances in them…
I may or may not have a t-shirt that says the same thing (!)
Ugh, I’m sorry it’s been so hot. Our winter in Tennessee on the whole has been really mild, almost disconcertingly so… welcome to the new normal? I’ve never read a Kinsella book before but I’ve been curious. Is there one you like better than this one?
ahh – mild winter – just the sound of it make me sigh wistfully….! Isn’t weather just so dang strange??? I can’t get a handle on it anymore – and I don’t care what anyone says – it was TOTALLY not like this when I was younger. And people poo-poo global warming – phsaw!
I haven’t been much for Kinsella – read the first Confessions of a Shopaholic – liked the movie better – and recently tried The Undomestic Goddess and only managed about a third of it. Honestly what grown up lawyer can’t even slice and toast bread??? I couldn’t suspend disbelief;
And despite my quibbles – this one wasn’t THAT bad (I blame cranky hot weather) and it had some laugh-out-moments that were definitely worth the read…so if you were going to try a Kinsella – I would definitely give this one a whirl! 🙂
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The heat has just been absolutely maddening. I am impressed that you managed to read a book AND write a comprehensible review! I don’t mind the occasional chick-lit novel – like you I despise the lack of romance after so much inner-angst about finding oneself but I do love good dialogue and supportive friendships that is a mainstay in most chick lit.
There is SO much angst isn’t there? I feel like we should be more rewarded for suffering through it; (preferably with a PROPER romance!) But the reasons you mentioned are exactly why I keep coming back to the genre: the dialogue and humour and the supportive friendships…if only somewhere they could make a meshed version that combined the two…chickomance? romachick?
A romachick sounds too much like a chicken tomato sanger. But I do like chickomance!
hahaha – that is so true! And now that I think about it, chickomance kinda reminds me of a chicko roll….as well – must have been hungry whilst thinking of it!
Haha. I just tried to find a clip of 1981 Puberty Blues where the guy says “Go get me a Chicko Roll. Don’t take a bite!” but alas it is not in existence!
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WHAT??? The internet failed us???!!! I can’t believe it! (on a side note: I remember watching p-blues in school. I loved it. 😉 )
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I KNOW! It is a classic moment in Australian film history and NADA!
I can’t STAND chicklit b/c ALL your reasons and, usually, first-person narration. *shudder* However, I will put in a good work for Freya North’s Pillow Talk b/c it was funny.
Yay for The Chin!!!!!
I haven’t read Pillow Talk!!!! But I just checked North out on goodreads and there it was – looking all cute and endearing with its sketchy/watercolour cover – I am SUCH a sucker for them – they’re so preeetttyy….needless to say, TOTALLY picking that one up!
Also – is there a chin compendium somewhere? Am I missing out on it? There should be a list that categorises *excellent* usages of the chin. I think it points to rather exemplary books. … or at the v. least, lifts books from the mediocre to the interestingly above average….
I’ve always wanted to keep a “Chin” use list: did I ever write a post? I think I did, outlining some good Chin uses. Then, I kinda let it go b/c LIFE, WORK, BAD. I should do it again. A Chin Compendium: I LOVE that.
Oooh! I wonder if this: “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” –is the reason why I never got on to the chick-lit bandwagon! Hmm, I wonder if Anuja Chauhan would qualify as chick-lit? Apart from her, I can’t recall having read any in recent years!
And ahhhhh, 45 degrees! Reminds me of my childhood! I was always camped in front of the “cooler,” which I have no idea how to explain about! It was pre-AC days (well before AC became popular in India anyway!), and I spent countless hours of joy sitting in front of it, and reading away!
BUT I feel ya! I’ve been there too! The sun literally burns!
Here’s wishing you lots more rains, and a lessening of the heat!
Anuja Chauhan I think would fit into chick lit – but she does AWESOME romance in her stories – and ZOMG – that totally reminds me she was the entire reason that I found your blog!!!! I read those stories on your rec and have been a stalwart follower ever since (both of Chauhan AND you!! lol 😉 )
Re cooler – prob not quite the same – but I always used to open the fridge and sit in front of it and read (my mum would yell at me for wasting gas – (we have a gas fridge at the time)) but it was the only way not to die in a pool of sweat….
There was a thunderstorm this afternoon which was LOVELY. I think your rain wishes must have worked!!!!
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