Shopaholic and Baby by Sophie Kinsella

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Shopaholic and Baby by Sophie Kinsella

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Magda Healey
Reviewed by Magda Healey
Summary: This long-awaited instalment of popular cycle retains all the winning features of the previous books: it's funny, extremely easy to read, has a main character you either identify with or love to hate and no depth whatsoever. The best in completely pretension-less entertainment.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: February 2007
Publisher: Bantam Press
ISBN: 978-0593053874

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Sophie Kinsella is undoubtedly one of the queens of chick-lit, and deservedly so. Her Shopaholic cycle is extremely popular, and while her other efforts (Undomestic Goddess and Can You Keep a Secret?) had mixed reception, Shopaholic continues to delight.

For the uninitiated, the Shopaholic in question is Becky Bloomwood, a creation of genius that narrates the books and gives them their unique flavour. Unlike other chick-lit heroines, Becky is not riddled with insecurities and neuroses but eternally chirpy, optimistic and cheerful. She has a slight spending problem, but as she gets conveniently married to a Very Rich (but also Very Loving) man earlier on in the cycle, she never gets into real financial trouble and can indulge in her consumerist binges to her (and readers') heart content. She is, essentially, a shallow, celebrity and fashion obsessed idiot, and an insufferably girlie one at that, but she's also full of life, endearing, good-hearted, upbeat and resourceful. Oh, and she doesn't worry about being fat. She is the kind of person that many readers might wish was their friend, but even if you think you wouldn't be able to stand her for 10 minutes in real life, it can be pure fun (if tinted with a bit of schadenfreude) reading about her.

Kinsella writes well, with fluency and never losing the naturalness of her narrator, an ear for dialogue (I don't have any of the "people don't speak like THAT" moments with her) and a good sense of comedy, with Becky's parents, half-sister Jess and posh friend Suze prime secondary subjects for chuckles of recognition. But apart from that all, her books are refreshingly unpretentious: they are positive and kind, they don't pretend to deal with any kind of 'issues' of either social or emotional kind. There is no real evil and no real heartbreak in them, there is no violence, and - thankfully, as I have never seen it done convincingly in a chick-lit novel - no sex. Shopaholic novels are pure, unadulterated, frothy entertainment with a dose of comedy of manners thrown in, and they do what they do very well indeed.

In Shopaholic and Baby Becky is pregnant (in fact, it should be really called Shopaholic and Bump) and explores to the full the glories of baby shopping while conveniently relegating the gory realities of impending childbirth to the back of her mind. Things are perfect for a while, what with a new house with a Shoe Room, a photo-shot of Yummy Mummies for the Vogue and her designer-friend Danny Kovitz co-opted to save the faltering new department store she's the head personal shopper at. Things turn less perfect when Becky's new celebrity obstetrician turns out to be her husband's ex-university girlfriend while Luke's best client is causing yet another kind of trouble. You need to read the book to find out how it all works out. Kinsella could, perhaps, make a better use of the baby-shopping trap many even normal women, never mind Becky Brandons of this world fall into, and I thought that the health and food fascism of fashionable pregnancies was a totally missed opportunity. But this is made up for by appearance of Jess (the brainy & thrifty half-sister) in love; a gloriously deranged baddie to be reckoned with and some moments of pure farce from the birth-preparation and baby-shopping angle.

A hymn to a golden-hearted bimbo and looking for solutions in the least likely of places Shopaholic and Baby is light, funny, unpretentious and still fresh, despite being the fifth in a series. Sufficiently removed from reality to provide safe, brainless entertainment, but with social comedy touching lightly on some very noticeable (and very laughable) facets of modern urban life, Shopaholic and Baby will have the hard-core fans ecstatic while providing an afternoon of slightly guilty entertainment for many others. It requires talent to have this reviewer rooting for a character who doesn't know who Odysseus is and who loves shopping for shoes, and Kinsella has this talent. Ideal for bath-time reading.

Another chick-lit book with good social comedy and family environment but a rather less cotton-wool brained heroine is The Nanny. Shoe-addicted fans of chick-lit will probably like Under the Duvet, even though this reviewer didn't; while real-life candidates for an urban yummy mummy should read The Fabulous Mum's Handbook, if only to avoid buying 5 new prams and a cot with disco lights. You might also enjoy Tiny Acts of Love by Lucy Lawrie. You might also enjoy Mums Like Us by Laura Kemp, although we had our doubts. For more from the shopaholic, we have a review of Shopaholic to the Rescue.

Booklists.jpg Shopaholic and Baby by Sophie Kinsella is in the Bookbag's Chick Lit Picks.

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