The Joy of Shopping by Jill Foulston

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The Joy of Shopping by Jill Foulston

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Category: Home and Family
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The lighter and darker side of the art of shopping over the years in a collection of quotes lovingly edited by Jill Foulston.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: October 2007
Publisher: Virago Press Ltd
ISBN: 978-1844082759

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I'd better begin by making an admission. I hate shopping. I buy new clothes when I'm bullied into it and internet grocery shopping was designed with me in mind, so my immediate reaction to this book was that the title was an oxymoron and it was unlikely that I would find much joy between these covers. I was more than pleasantly surprised and that's down to the skill of the editor, Jill Foulston.

It's a sweeping look at shopping from the Middle Ages, when it was done mainly by men or servants, through to the present day and it covers women's writings about shopping in fact and in fiction. Initially I wondered if the juxtaposition of Jane Austen, shopping for a locket for her sister, with Sophie Kinsella's shopaholic might be incongruous, but it was surprisingly refreshing. I liked Kinsella better for her rapture and Austen less because she was just so gosh-darned pernickety. I saw each in a different light.

Other than in writing the introduction Jill Foulston does not intrude at all and the reader is left to wander through the quotes she provides. Some are only a few lines, others as much as a page or two. One or two were a little too long and tedious for my taste but they were the exception rather than the rule. A collection of random writings with no organisation would be unedifying but Jill Foulston has grouped them loosely into interest areas with the result that you find one quote illuminating or neatly contrasting with another. As an editor she has an admirably light touch - something which others would do well to emulate.

I chuckled when I saw Five Finger Discounts as a chapter heading, but apparently more women are sentenced to prison for shoplifting than for any other offence, according to Prison does nothing to deter the shoplifters though - as eight out of ten commit more crimes within two years of leaving prison. Across the Atlantic, two New York authoresses went shoplifting to get some punch into their literary work. New York justice also allowed them some experience of the workhouse. The book is positively littered with such gems.

It's possibly not a book to read right through as I did, but rather one to dip into as the mood takes you. I opened several pages at random and found something interesting on every one of them - and that's from someone who isn't enamoured of the subject in the first place. Collecting the quotes has obviously been a labour of love and their breadth and variety means that there is going to be something to everyone's taste. It would make a good gift for someone interested in shopping - even in the social and historical aspects of it - or just as a treat for yourself.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending this book to The Bookbag.

If you are interested in the factual aspects of shopping then Bookbag can recommend Joanna Blythman's book Shopped which details the shocking power of the British supermarkets. For a history of one particular shop we think you would definitely enjoy The Rise and Fall of Marks and Spencer - and How It Rose Again by Judy Bevan. If shopping in fiction is your thing then you can do no better than the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella.

Buy The Joy of Shopping by Jill Foulston at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Joy of Shopping by Jill Foulston at

Buy The Joy of Shopping by Jill Foulston at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Joy of Shopping by Jill Foulston at


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Magda said:

I was wondering when I saw it at The Book People... (as your statement about Internet shoppping was very aplicable to me). And on this note, I quite guiltily recently realised that I don't dislike shopping at all, I just dislike going to the shops. I positively like most of the Internet shopping, and don't mind mail order of any kind.

On shoplifting, I often do wonder how blatantly one has to be intending to steal, considering the numerous times I walked out of stores with unpaid-for items (it's very easy to do accidentally if you are nor carrying a basket and use a baby buggy & nappy bag to stick different purchases around).


Sue replied:

I hate going to the shops. I wouldn't go as far as to say that I enjoy internet shopping - or mail order - but the fact that I can do it from the workroom does make it tolerable.

Perhaps security people have an instinct for the people who genuinely do intend to pay but forget rather than those who had no intention at all?