Friday, March 12, 2010

Book Review: Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

For years I’ve been told I should read these books. For the most part I don’t like the sillier chick lit books, and I was kind of waiting for when I needed to read something super-light, but the audio book was on sale and I had a couple of short trips coming up so I figured it would work well.

The plot for those living under a rock for the last 10 years:

Becky is a writer for a financial magazine, though she wants to write for fashion. She spends her days retyping press releases and fending off PR reps for various financial packages she couldn't care less about. She spends her nights shopping and hiding from her ever-growing pile of bills. Eventually things come to a head and she manages to grow up a bit, find a way forward to deal with her personal finances, and that perhaps she's not as dingy and one-sided as even she had thought.

I did like the story of Becky Bloomwood. She is appealing despite her many flaws, and I do like that she’s a little more of a grown-up than some of the sillier chick lit novels: she has a real job, her own apartment with only one roommate, and isn’t obsessed with boys or drinking. In fact, for a large part of the book, the fact that she doesn’t have a boyfriend rarely seems to cross her mind which I liked very much. The guy she was going to end up with was fairly transparent from the beginning, but there were moments when I wasn’t sure if Tarquin was going to prove underestimated or Luke was going to prove underhanded, and that was nice – keeping me a little more on my toes than I had anticipated. The other thing I really liked is that debt and shopping really can be a huge problem for young women just out on their own – and becoming more so for subsequent generations – and Becky’s problems are not only universal and identifiable, but hopefully she can act as a warning to others, and she does in the end come to realize she can’t just continue to ignore her money problems but she has to face them, and while her solution (have a great story fall in her lap, get on TV, be a natural) aren’t exactly the solution that will work for everyone, the bigger picture (pick up an extra job and if the first try doesn’t work out don’t give up) is a good lesson. And it’s subtle enough that it doesn’t feel the least bit preachy.

One thing I wasn’t crazy about was the audio. The narrator did a good job, but what should have been just a 3-4 hour book if I was reading it myself, was a 15 hour book on audio. That should have been a clue before I started listening to it. The trope that Kinsella uses of letters and notices throughout the book from Becky’s banks and credit cards I’m sure is cute and amusing in print, but on audio the poor narrator has to read the whole letter, both addresses, dates, salutations, and even the taglines for the companies, which really bogs things down. While reading in print, you’d skim all that if you even bothered to give it a look, and it really slowed down the story on audio. But I did like the accent particularly. While when reading a British book I often will hear the words with a bit of a British accent in my head, that accent is ME doing British, and so when listening to a real Brit read it with words like “dynasty” and “schedule” that have a completely different pronunciation in British English than American, it really jolted me back to London.

The book overall was cute and sweet but slight. Becky was sympathetic and grew as a person. I did enjoy it, but not enough to read the rest of the series. Good chick lit, and a great example of how an author at the top of her game can elevate a genre
that’s often considered a rung below ordinary novels.

This book is a part of the Audiosynced roundup of audio book reviews at Abby (the Librarian). She'll have a post April 1 with the full list.


Teresa said...

I think you've made an excellent choice to not continue the series. I have read them when I wanted something light, but ended up getting so annoyed with Becky by the last one that I wasn't going to pick up another Kinsella novel EVER!

Of course I went against that and recently read The Undomestic Goddess. Much better than the Shopaholic series. If you are looking for something light, you might consider it.

Anonymous said...

I also finished reading the book today. I was looking for something fluffy and light to read. So I was not that disappointed. And I gave it 3/5! :-D