The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella

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The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A top-flight lawyer becomes a housekeeper despite having no domestic skills. It's formulaic chicklit, but if you want an easy, light-hearted read then you could do worse than to borrow it from the library.
Buy? No Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 416 Date: January 2006
Publisher: Black Swan
ISBN: 0552772747

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Samantha Sweeting is a lawyer and all her adult life she's had just one ambition. She is desperate to become a partner of the prestigious law firm for whom she works. Just as she's about to achieve this she apparently makes a massive error and runs away from it all. She gets on a train - the first train to anywhere - and finds herself stranded in a Cotswold village. There's a beautiful house nearby and she knocks on the door hoping for a glass of water, but the owner thinks that she's come for an interview for the post of housekeeper. Desperate for somewhere to stay she accepts the job despite the fact that she can't cook, launder or do anything else remotely domesticated. It's only the charms of the gardener that keep her in the job.

There was a point when I wondered if I would be able to finish this book. It was only the fact that it was a borrowed book that stopped me ripping it up and throwing it in the bin. I found the character of Samantha Sweeting infuriating and totally unbelievable. At the beginning of the book we see her as a competent, if over-worked, lawyer, very much in control of what's she's doing. She's within moments of achieving a partnership when an error comes to light. We then have a complete change of personality. Instead of staying to sort the matter out and acting with integrity she does a runner. She does what an immature schoolgirl would have done. If she was so incapable of handling the pressure she wouldn't have been successful in her job. A good lawyer is calm in that sort of emergency.

If I thought the book was poor so far then what happened next was unbelievable. She catches a train and finds herself in the Cotswolds. She doesn't book herself into a hotel despite the fact that she has her credit card with her. She knocks on the door of a house and ends up accepting the job of housekeeper after lying like a trouper in the interview.

So far, so according to the chick lit recipe. Take one reasonably attractive young woman (who doesn't realise that she's attractive) and get her into an awkward situation which appears totally insoluble. Produce some help which enables her to cope and stir an attractive man into the mix. Ensure that the baddies all get their comeuppance and bake until you have a happy ending. Even if you just read the précis on the back of the book you probably know exactly how it's going to turn out.

Having said all that, the second half of the book is better than the first. I found the Samantha who realised that she could relax and enjoy herself more believable than the lawyer. I did sense some spark between Samantha and Nathaniel and the portrayal of Samantha's reluctance and indecision about going back to her old life was well done. You could see all of the ending coming a mile away, but it all works out the way that you want it to, so that's no hardship.

Characterisation is, well, extreme. No one ever does anything by halves and sometimes they undergo a complete personality change. An avuncular and friendly man turns out to be a villain. The nouveau-riche employers of the housekeeper turn out to have hearts of gold and feather brains. The gardener has hidden depths and an obliging mother. The lawyers get lawyers a bad name.

What redeems this book is the writing style. It's very easy to read. Kinsella has a good ear for dialogue and moves the story along at a steady pace. If you're looking for an undemanding summer holiday read then you could do a lot worse - Barbara Taylor Bradford's Emma's Secret or indeed any of her later work, springs to mind, but you could do better too. For something with a little more meat and style you could try Julian Fellowes' Snobs, Anthony Capella's The Food of Love or Maggie O'Farrell's After You'd Gone.

Buy The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella at

Buy The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella at


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Magda said:

Exactly my feelings, Sue!

Wendy said:

I am off on hols on 13th June so may get this to read. It's also nice to have something easy going to read in between heavier books - like Stephen King.

dizilizi said:

To start off with I thought the story was a tad on the silly side. I mean a lawyer getting mistaken for a cleaner then suddenly deciding it was the ideal job for her is rather unlikely. I have read some of Sophie's other books and they were much better, this one wasn't quite up to scratch I'm afraid.

lhine said:

Agreed - this is very undemanding and probably what you'd take on your holidays to read by the pool. Some parts are just beyond belief knocking on strangers doors ,a highly successfull barrister legging it after a mistake and then pretending to be a housekeeper/chef (and getting away with it)etc. etc. But having said that it is chick-lit and should be taken, and enjoyed) as such!

Sophie.emma said:

It is an entertaining easy read and a different theme to Sophie Kinsella's usual shopaholic books. I didn't have any trouble staying interested and reading it from start to finish whilst on holiday, although I do agree that the ending became predictable near the end.

Amanda Borley said:

I enjoyed this book which is a light-hearted read. I am a fan of Sophie Kinsella's previous shopaholic series and was worried that she wouldn't be able to match the readability in this, however I was not disappointed.

Sue replied:

I enjoyed the Shopaholic series, Amanda - I Just didn't feel that this was up to the same standard.

Wendy said:

I have just read Can You Keep a Secret and this was to be my next read of Kinsella. I will give it a go as I need "no brainers" every now and then to balance out the horror of King and Herbert!