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Book Review: The Undomestic Goddess, Sophie Kinsella

All banking lawyer Samantha Sweeting has ever wanted since she joined the firm seven years ago was to make partner. The day after she turns 29, and her workaholic mother and one of her brothers fail to show for a planned celebration dinner due to work commitments, it appears as though her ambitions are about to be realized. That is, until she discovers she’s made a terrible and very costly mistake. Walking away from her job, central London, her barely lived-in flat, long hours, no holidays or time for the self, where every second is accounted for and answering mobiles and blackberries mid conversations and meetings is the norm, Samantha stumbles into the countryside and the lives of a nouveau-riche couple, landing the job of their housekeeper even though, she cannot cook, clean or iron. As improbable as this sounds, she also discovers that she enjoys these things as she also learns what it’s like to relax, have time to think and socialize and simply be. And, of course, as you would expect in a Bridget Jones’ style rom-com, she meets a man. Is he Mr Right? Perhaps now, she has the time to find out. But when her past comes back to bite her, Samantha has to make a choice….

OK. I have read a couple of other Kinsella books (Do You Want to Know a Secret and Confessions of a Shopaholic) and I admit, they’re not really my cup of tea. While there are a couple of laugh out loud moments, these are mostly stifled by cliched portrayals of the sexes and redundant stereotypes – even for the genre. But, when you pick up one of her books, you do know what you’re getting and I was in the mood for light… Only,not quite this light. Though the message underpinning the novel – about the importance of finding a work-life balance and not letting modern living and career consume you, are relevant in this day and age and can be explored well in this oeuvre, I struggled with the fact that this corporate lawyer, with an IQ of 158, not only found her bliss by cooking and cleaning, in other words, back in domestic space (a later character accuses her of betraying feminist principles and while that might be a way for the author to circumvent those accusations as well, I think they’re quite warranted) but she works for two nice idiots! The fact she gives up a degree of autonomy willingly for service where she is constantly, if kindly, patronized and assumed to be stupid galled me. Talk about swallowing your pride, she consumed hers! Her employers even buy her basic English and other books for goodness sakes! That she also curtsies is almost too much. I also become frustrated when characters remain silent about their abilities to further plot or play dumb without really serving the narrative… Grrrrr… For goodness sake, speak up!!! It simply didn’t ring true, all the secrets… Not keeping them from everyone! Why??? And then, there’s the whole romance thing. The choice question is asked again: career or man/love; professional life or a private one. It’s still, in twenty-first century romances an either/or resolution… Why??? So, while I understand this is froth and bubble, it was still annoying froth and bubble and I wanted more from and for the central character. In fact, it was only when she becomes suspicious about her professional mistake that she demonstrated the nous she apparently had a reputation of possessing… But even that quickly evaporated.

Overall, a good, light read that doesn’t touch let alone challenge any boundaries. 2.5 stars.

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