"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Friday, August 20, 2010

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

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Summary: A modern British woman is haunted by the ghost of her great-aunt, who was the original Twenties girl. 

This book stared out so slowly and clich├ęd that I was a little disappointed and thought maybe that Sophie Kinsella had kinda run her course.

The book opens with mid-twenties Lara Lington lying to parents about how successful her business is (not very), how she’s not text-stalking her ex-boyfriend (because he changed his phone number) and that she doesn’t need any money (totally not true). Another novel about a British woman who’s struggling with who she is and what she wants? Been there, read that.

Lara and her family are attending the funeral of Lara’s great aunt Sadie, who died alone in a nursing home at age 105. Suddenly Lara hears a panicked voice asking, “Where’s my necklace?” It turns out to be the ghost of Sadie, whom only Lara can see. She shouts out that Sadie’s been murdered and lies rather ridiculously to the police and her family about it. They agree to delay burial so they can investigate but everyone thinks Lara’s a little off.

Sadie then haunts Lara’s apartment and work. There are some silly and uninspired moments where Lara is trying to talk to a live person and also argue with Sadie at the same time. You get the idea. Sadie also has the remarkable ability to shout commands in people’s ears and they find themselves compelled to obey without knowing why. So Lara convinces Sadie to get her ex-boyfriend to share why he broke up with her. Lara immediately embarks on a mission to be the type of girlfriend Josh wants. Again, not that original as a chick-lit plot.

But Sadie also forces/encourages/persuades Lara to ask Sadie’s dream man out on a date, so that Sadie can have one last fling. Lara walks into a building, asks new-in-town American Ed out on a date. Ed, with Sadie’s hidden persuasion, agrees to go out with Lara. Sadie also convinces Lara to dress like a real twenties girl for this date – hair, make-up, dress. And Sadie also supplies the dialogue for Lara on this date. It wasn’t until I saw the lengths that Lara went to to please Sadie, giving only minimal thought to how utterly ridiculous she looked that I started enjoying who Lara was. But that’s the way I am; if I don’t like the main character, I don’t really like the book.

Lara’s willingness to throw herself wholeheartedly into helping Sadie live some of her old memories and search for that darned necklace made this book better than your usual chick-lit. You may also have guessed that Lara really wants to be liked, and doesn’t like confrontation. So she originally helps Sadie just so that Sadie will go away.

But of course, in learning about Sadie’s life, Lara finds herself fascinated with a relative she never knew and marveling at her strength and zest for living. Of course you can guess that when Lara/Sadie is on a date with Ed that Lara finds herself happier than she’s ever been with Josh.

The story of the necklace and Sadie’s sad past uncover a shocking modern-day secret that give Lara confidence and rocks her whole family. I won’t give it away, but will tell you NOT to give up on this book. It’s worth reading until the end.

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