Saturday, 1 May 2010

The Undomestic Goddess (Sophie Kinsella)

--The blurb--
"Workaholic attorney Samantha Sweeting has just done the unthinkable. She's made a mistake so huge, it'll wreck any chance of a partnership. Going into utter meltdown, she walks out of her London office, gets on a train, and ends up in the middle of nowhere. Asking for directions at a big, beautiful house, she's mistaken for an interviewee and finds herself being offered a job as housekeeper. Her employers have no idea they've hired a lawyer-and Samantha has no idea how to work the oven. She can't sew on a button, bake a potato, or get the #@%# ironing board to open. How she takes a deep breath and begins to cope-and finds love-is a story as delicious as the bread she learns to bake. But will her old life ever catch up with her? And if it does…will she want it back?"

--The review--
When an author or a work receives as much hype and acclaim as Sophie Kinsella, my immediate reaction is to proceed with caution and trepidation; if expectations are not too high, then the comedown is lessened if the outcome is disappointing. In this case, the novel was not the rollicking and hilarious laugh-a-minute-fest that we are told that Kinsella's work is. It is certainly a light read, but like many other light reads, such as those by Jodi Picoult and Dan Brown, it is riddled with flaws.

In Kinsella's case, the reputation that precedes her is almost definitely her downfall: if someone says that something is rip-roaringly funny with such pressing enthusiasm, then chances are that it won't be, and this sad self-fulfilling prophecy is embodied in The Undomestic Goddess: I didn't laugh out loud once. There wasn't even a small inward titter to be had. The forced humour was accentuated and exacerbated by the equally clunky and unnatural-sounding dialogue (which only reminded me of my efforts at written dialogue as a 14-year-old). Kinsella's dialogic skills, or lack of them, contribute to her novel's downward spiral of quality, as combined with the largely two-dimensional and unrealistic characters and the lack of originality in the novel's central moral, what readers end up with is something in dire need of unity and realism. Towards the novel's end, one also has the feeling that Kinsella doesn't know what she wants to happen as she chops and changes between potential outcomes, which, while perhaps intended to build suspense and keep readers on their toes, just ends up being irritating more than anything else.

However, in spite of all of these criticisms, there are some discernible positives in The Undomestic Goddess. Kinsella's imagery is strong and vivid, and, more crucially, like many of the other light reads mentioned above, her skills do not lie in character or humour but in plot, and this does a great deal for a novel's momentum and to keep a reader interested. Despite the author not having a background in the law, the aspects of the plot that relate to this are creative, detailed, well-sequenced, and seemingly accurate. Simultaneously, these parts also remain accessible, and more than anything provide the bulk of the novel's pace and interest. The disparity between the protagonist's legal background and her current situation is highly appealing and rekindles the success in literature of the theme of disguise.

So while Kinsella's novels are hardly likely to be classed as great literature, and while even as easy reads they have a lot of problems, there are certainly some rays of light to be found, which may well increase in number as the author's style develops into something deeper and more wide-ranging.

Other works by Sophie Kinsella
The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic/Confessions of a Shopaholic (2000)
Shopaholic Abroad/Shopaholic Takes Manhattan (2001)
Shopaholic Ties The Knot (2001)
Can You Keep A Secret? (2003)
Shopaholic and Sister (2004)
Shopaholic and Baby (2007)
Remember Me? (2008)
Twenties Girl (2009)
Mini Shopaholic (2010)


rohit said...

Must be an enjoyable read The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and orignal, this book is going in by "to read" list.

Ελλάδα said...

This book is a real good page turner. Reading certain parts was so exciting and I started shouting out the words on the page with anticipation with what was going to happen next...amazing! must read.