I’ve read some Sophie Kinsella in the past and thought this would offer a fun, lightweight, heartwarming read.
I still read it quickly in the way that you do when you’re fully hooked on the story, but despite that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. There were some funny moments, especially earlier on. Sophie does have a knack for witty dialogue and humour.
Essentially the reason it didn’t quite resonate as it should was that the basic premise was a fail, for a couple of reasons.
First, Fliss takes it on herself to wreck little sister Lottie’s rushed rebound marriage by orchestrating non-consummation on her wedding night. Even putting aside issues such as: Fliss has no right; Lottie is a 33 year old adult woman; if she wants a baby, who is Fliss to stop her at this age and stage of her life?…
The main problem was that the non-consummation orchestrations just aren’t funny. They’re too implausible to be amusing: I couldn’t suspend disbelief to that degree, or even close (and I believe in Harry Potter). The telly tubbies, the single beds, the peanut oil, the airport toilet – it just seemed silly, and not very interesting. More cringe than laugh. Rather like those old unfunny farces where people run in and out of doors mistaking identities because they have wigs on, and the like. There’s a reason farces are no longer popular.
Also it becomes clear quite early on that Ben is dimwitted and shallow and unpleasant despite hot bod, so why does Lottie persist in trying to shag him anyway?
Even when Lottie finally realizes she really loves Richard and doesn’t like Ben and they’re going to split up straight away, she still wants to shag Ben just the once. “We deserve this.” Really? It seems deeply unlikely character-wise (who wants to shag a guy who they know is dim, selfish and all over some other woman? Not Lottie, unless she has the lowest self-esteem out there.) It’s a plot device to bring in another round of consummation-obstruction orchestrations, and as they weren’t funny the first time round they’ve definitely overstayed their welcome by now.
Which all sounds highly critical, and is – but partly I’m annoyed because I like Sophie Kinsella, and her writing is lovely: intelligent, warm-hearted, humorous. So I had high expectations. Counterpoint to criticisms: intriguing idea – the rebound marriage, droll moments and flashes of wit, and strong characters. Yes, Lottie’s an immature (likeable) idiot and Fliss is a micro-managing control freak (best interests at heart etc). So they both have issues, but of course that’s what makes them interesting. They’re both engaging in different ways – I rooted for them, and I liked the ending (yay!). I just wanted the story to be better, and funnier.
Also - will still rush out and read the next one that comes along, so slight disappointment not enough to put me off Kinsella. We all have off days.
I read this without knowing that it was a sequel, but as it turns out that is no big deal: the novel stands alone comfortably, and in fact it’s hard to see how it is a sequel at all really (though from reading reviews, I presume it’s something to do with the paranormal premise).
First of all: this was a great, can’t-put-down-storm-on-through beach read, with a gripping premise and solid writing that kept the reader hooked throughout. The idea of a cruise liner stranded, floating in dead calm on the Gulf of Mexico and out of contact with any rescue service, is one I find fascinating (and have in fact toyed with myself, unsatisfactorily – though not in the Gulf of Mexico). Throw a few key conflicts/intriguing characters into the mix – a sexual predator with blood on his hands, a fake medium who suddenly starts nailing the psychic insights, her anorexic kind-of-nice assistant, suicide sisters who got together through internet death dating, secretly gay Indian security guy, slightly sociopathic cleaning staff member, stalker blog-reporter… Yes, there are a lot of characters. But it’s easy to keep track of who’s who, they have clear and consistent identities, and at no time did I lose track or become disengaged. Quite the opposite – I couldn’t put it down.
The story reminds me a little of early Stephen King, such as the Shining or Christine or Carrie: great premise and strong characters – except King’s would have waffled on for 600 pages. Also I used to find his horror a bit strong to stomach, and Lotz’s – although at the scary end – wasn’t the kind of horror that would make me keep the light on at nights. Which I like. I wouldn’t have picked it up at all, if I’d known it was categorized as horror.
Negatives? The ending, basically. I found the landfall section (minimizing spoilers here) out of the blue and implausible. Plus the format changed from the various main protagonist’s viewpoints to a bulletin/report style. Hm. Losing the personal and replacing with a Kafka-esque unknown government agency report? For me that didn’t work. The faceless bad men of government who disappear people feels tired, and definitely doesn’t offer satisfaction/resolution enough. If you’re the sort of person who felt horribly let down by the way Lost lost the plot and fizzled out with a whimper not a bang – then this isn’t quite a whimper, but it’s not an ending you can get your teeth into and feel satiated by, either.
But I will still rush out and buy number one in series – so obviously the pozzies well outweigh the negs.
What Works And Why?
We read to escape, enjoy, engage, and find out more about our world. So reading is great - but what makes a great read? A page dedicated to short analyses of how writers engage readers.