Thursday, 9 February 2017

Emma's Review: My not so Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Katie Brenner has the perfect life: a flat in London, a glamorous job, and a super-cool Instagram feed.

OK, so the truth is that she rents a tiny room with no space for a wardrobe, has a hideous commute to a lowly admin job, and the life she shares on Instagram isn’t really hers. 

But one day her dreams are bound to come true, aren’t they?

Until her not-so-perfect life comes crashing down when her mega-successful boss Demeter gives her the sack. All Katie’s hopes are shattered. She has to move home to Somerset, where she helps her dad with his new glamping business. 

Then Demeter and her family book in for a holiday, and Katie sees her chance. But should she get revenge on the woman who ruined her dreams - or try to get her job back? Does Demeter – the woman who has everything – actually have such an idyllic life herself? Maybe they have more in common than it seems. 

And what’s wrong with not-so-perfect, anyway?

Amazon links: Kindle or Hardcover

I have been a long-time fan of Sophie Kinsella's writing and consider her to be one of the foremost women's fictions writers in the chick-lit genre. Thousands of us have loved her Shopaholic series and equally as much her stand alone novels. For me recently I felt the Shopaholic series had somewhat lost its sparkle and had perhaps run its course so I was delighted to see the author was publishing a brand new standalone novel My Not So Perfect Life and our attention and focus would turn to a brand new character Katie (Cat) Brenner. I can't say enough good things about this book, it totally reaffirmed for me that Sophie is one of the Queen's of the chick-lit genre and there is a reason she is so popular. I devoured the book in two sittings, in fact I would have finished it in one go only for the problem of having to go to work getting in the way.

On the cover it says it's fresh, funny, uplifting and bang up to date and I often think these words are just put on the cover to attract people to purchase the book but in this case they couldn’t have been more apt or true. They are the perfect words to describe this book. Bang up to date is certainly suitable as the references throughout couldn't be more on trend in relation to today's society. The author has captured the perfect blend that many readers old and new will identify with of that young woman struggling to get on her job and make something of herself. While at the same time she is presenting a front to so many making out the world she inhabits both personally and professionally is such a bed of roses when in fact it couldn't be further from the truth. There couldn't have been a better title for this book- My Not So Perfect Life sums up the story to a t and I have to say this book has renewed my love for chick-lit and I am proud to say I am back loving this genre big time.

The book falls into two distinct parts that all mix well together and connect the two strands of Katie's life to perfection. Katie, or Cat as she is known when working in London, is 26 and when we first meet her as she travels to work you really can't help falling that little bit in love with her and this feeling doesn't let go until the very last word. Yes it's a cliché to say you can identify with her but I think everyone who reads this book will see/find a little bit of themselves in Katie and that's the sign of a good author who can make you feel this way. Katie is battling the daily commute as she travels across London to Chiswick and the offices of the advertising agency she works in as a lowly junior. Even describing the commute Sophie Kinsella is bang on with her references and incidents which had me laughing out loud even though it was only the first chapter. In fact I think maybe within every few pages there was something to laugh at. Sometimes you were almost laughing in horror at what was unfolding others it was laughter of sheer glee and amusement at the revenge and comeuppance at what was unfolding. The 'sandwich' incident was a time I laughed in sheer horror. 

Katie is matter of fact about the life she is leading and she lets us in on every aspect of this and never once held back which really helped the reader to get to know her and understand her way of thinking and why she felt the need to cover so many things up. In fact that's the crux of the book that the perfect London life she portrays on her Instagram page of nights out and fabulous restaurants and all the brilliant advertising work she is doing couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality she has lied to her father Mick and stepmother Biddy back home on the family farm in Somerset and to her followers on Instagram. Life is not all that perfect. Her long held dream of having a super life in London and loving everything about the city and her job is just that a reality and the cold hard facts of her day to day existence both at home and at work are not what she wants outsiders to believe. So what's making the life Katie envisaged not pan out the way she hoped it would. Demeter is the answer, a character so brilliantly crafted that for the majority of the book I simply loathed her. She would make an excellent on screen baddie if this book was ever to be made into a film. The author built up such a brilliant picture of her all from Katie's perspective that I felt we really knew her even though none of the story was told from her point of view. 

Demeter rules the office with an iron fist and in a way Katie aspires to be like her in fact she would just be grateful if Demeter would one day take a look at the designs she has been privately working on in the hopes some praise might be forthcoming. Katie feels Demeter has that perfect life she so wishes for - top paying job, huge house complete with loving family, endless parties to attend, fabulous on trend clothing not to mention all the fads she is so ahead with that others have barely heard mention of them. Demeter has it all and Katie is envious that she is so lowly paid and forgotten about. I said I loathed Demeter and I did for the most part. The way she carried on was unnatural and I don't think anyone would have liked to work for her. Her demands were unreasonable and even though she had confidence, style and sophistication I did wonder was this enough to make the ideal complete happy package. In a way I resented the fact that Katie looked up to her so much and had made her self in to some one she clearly wasn't all for the sake of a dream that clearly wasn't going to plan. So obviously the story couldn't just continue on with Katie watching in envy as Demeter continues to be successful while many in the office resent her. Thankfully it didn't take too long for the story to change tack and two things came into play - a chance meeting with Alex whom Katie had no idea who he really was and then the way in which she was unceremoniously fired from her job leaves Katie bewildered and in a way returning home with her tail between her legs looking for comfort and to see what on earth she can do next?

Part two of the story was even stronger than the first. We saw an entire new side of Katie emerge as she 'lies' and says she is on a sabbatical so she can help set up the newest in a long list of ventures her Dad aspires too. Glamping is the new thing and Mick wants in on it. While Katie pretends she is still busy fielding calls from the office and the perfect life she is supposed to have created in reality on a day to day basis she is putting her skills to good use and getting the business off the ground. This part of the book felt so homely and I felt we got to know Katie even better because she was in her home environment and was more relaxed than we had seen her when living her London life. The only problem that arises is when Katie discovers Demeter has booked in with her family for a week long holiday. Oh what a nightmare and to this reader's delight chaos, revenge and laughter abound and I couldn't get enough of it. It was like the opportunity one had always waited on – a time to get revenge on your boss for everything they put you through and made you feel. Boy did Katie take full advantage and I wanted her to go even more full throttle with what unfolded. Yet at the same time a caring side of Katie emerged and it's nice to see a character with this whereas I know I wouldn't lay off so quickly. 

But slowly Sophie Kinsella exposed another side to the story, one which you wouldn't think would emerge when reading the first chapter. Lots of surprises amidst the humour and madness were thrown in and only very near the end more or less when the characters discovered things did subtle references start to click with me and I almost changed my mind re a certain character but then I just couldn't. There was just the right amount of romance thrown not so in your face as I felt the author allowed Katie and her professional storyline to shine more so and I was pleased with her outcome. 

My Not So Perfect Life is a brilliant book that reminded just why I fell in love with the chick-lit genre in the first place. When a story of this nature is done well and achieves the right balance it will have you rushing through the pages laughing out loud and then at certain points going all soft and that’s what this book does. I'm getting ever so slightly bored of endless themed books featuring cafés or shops and this was such a welcome refresher that I enjoyed immensely. I really can't recommended it enough and it would be a book you would want to read more than once and that's me saying something considering I very rarely do this. Do yourself a favour and buy this book asap you won't be one bit disappointed you did.

Many thanks to Becky Short from Transworld Books for my copy of My Not So Perfect Life to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

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