Thursday, 18 February 2010
By Beth Hoffman
I’m fated to go mad.
Why so, my dear? You seem sane enough to me. Well… relatively.
You don’t know my family
Ah yes. The genetic taint. You fear that you’ll be struck down by mental illness because it’s in the family? What you need (apart from learning about genetics) is Saving CeeCee Honeycutt.
A cosy novel of the American Deep South. CeeCee - 12-year-old Cecelia Rose - is minding her increasingly disturbed mother at the start - her dad has taken it on the lam, and is present only in maintenance cheques.
And this will help me how?
Be calm. CeeCee’s mother is killed, and her great-aunt Tootie swoops in and brings CeeCee to Savannah, Georgia, to a world run entirely by ladies.
Georgia? KKK fanatics?
Of course the racism question raises its head soon - Tootie’s housekeeper, Oletta, is black and proud. But in this simple story, simple decency wins out.
How unlike life
Not always, honeychile. Oletta, Tootie, their appealingly nutty neighbour Miz Goodyear, Oletta’s friends in the old folks’ home, all help to heal the troubled child.
Certainly not safe reading for diabetics. But kindly and reassuring for anyone too taken with the current craze for seeing DNA as an unstoppable force.
A horrid neighbour, Miz Hobbs, is a saccharine racist. But CeeCee gets her revenge by kidnapping her bra and photographing it in many appealing locations, and sending nasty Miz Hobbs the photos with nice notes.
Beginning to like the sound of it
It’s a big hit in America, where its simple story chimes with the nostalgia for a supposedly kinder past. All the problems - like those of CeeCee’s beloved old neighbour from the icy north - are solved with a smile and a generous offer.
The sense of place - interior designer Hoffman’s writing brings Savannah and its people lovingly into your mind. A gorgeous book.
Friday, 12 February 2010
by Gemma Burgess
So dating is toxic?
For lonely London ad copywriter Sass, it is: she’s just been dumped for the sixth time straight. This time after finding her current squeeze shagging another, dressed only (him) in a judge’s full-bottomed wig.
So Sass swears off men. After Arty Jonathan, Rugger Robbie, Smart Henry and the others, she’s had enough. Sass and her friend Bloomie make a 10-point plan: the Dating Detox. No More Men - for three months.
Like dreams, it goes in reverse. Instantly, Sass is the cynosure of all lusts, with men panting after her looking for her phone number.
Most of them the usual bastardos. But Sass has a good line in put-downs. To a man who says he doesn’t believe in global warming, she withers: “It’s not the tooth fairy. ‘Believing’ makes no difference.”
Writing that down now
Irish chick-litterateurs had better watch out - Gemma Burgess is about to eat your cake. Smart, plotty and funny, The Dating Detox is the work of a master. And it’s her first book - started when Gemma’s sky-high heels put her back out and she wrote a couple of chapters for fun.
Knows her stuff?
In what they call a ‘recursive metaphor’, she has her heroine describe chicklit: “The girl is somehow identifiable. The guy is somehow unattainable. There is fashion. There is a dancing scene… a klutzy friend.”
Whoah! Every single film -
“Then somewhere along the line, there is a fear that he’s messed up forever and has to prove himself to her to win her love.”
But wait - she’s not dating. So how -
Fear not. When she meets spicy Jake - very tall, with broad shoulders and dark hair, crinkly-round-the-edges eyes, teeth almost straight and very white…lips look like they get sunburnt a lot. In short, attractive as hell -
Mm. Get the idea.
And before you ask, yes, buy it, read it, love it. Brilliant fun.
Thursday, 11 February 2010
by Kate Thompson
Quiet village life?
Not! A glamorous film is being made in the village of Lissamore in ‘Coolnamara’, and the streets are full of sexy stars and slimy Tinseltown types. And hopeful actresses-to-be with stars in their eyes.
Magic is right, and Fleur O’Farrell, née Saint-Eveurte and otherwise known as Flirty, proprieteuse of stylish designer shop Fleurissima, is preparing to tell fortunes.
For charity. Fleur logs on to Facebook and discovers the secrets of villagers and visitors, and she’s able to magically manipulate lives like a kindly fairy godmother.
Mainly mouselet Bethany, a bullied teenager who blossoms into a gorgeous creature under Fleur’s care. Meanwhile, Dervla Kinsella, heroine of Thompson’s The Kinsella Sisters, reappears - newly married, and struggling with minding her husband’s senile mother.
I sense a political tone
You do. I bet the next in the series will have Dervla - a go-getting former estate agent - in politics and fighting for the rights of the aged.
Gritty real life
Real and online - a chunk of the book is lived in the ghostly online world, where you can be who you want, and do what (or who) you want. Until the fairy godmother catches up with you.
And a bad guy?
Fleur’s tycoonish lover, Corban O’Hara, one of the film’s producers, is far more flirty than Flirty knows, and as she wanders the cybernetic corridors of Second Life, she discovers secrets she might not want to know.
Ooh, bad boy
And a bad girl - the star Anastasia Harris, commonly known as Nasty, though she’s out-nastied by Corban, a mind melder of the first order.
The kind of manipulator who should have Garda crime-scene tapes around him at all times.
But a happy ending?
This is a cuddly, kindly book. Don’t worry, good will triumph and the bad will pay.
Saturday, 6 February 2010
by Muriel Barbery
The what of the what?
French bestseller - it keeps selling and selling. Now it’s here, and is building slowly, and is about to take off big time.
And is it worth it?
Run and buy it quick. Very funny, full of fantastic juicy insights, tres tres French.
Et cet ’edgehog?
That would be Renée, concierge of a fabulously upmarket apartment block where the future prime minister, the country’s top food critic and other luminaries reside.
As Pandora, the little girl who is Renée’s co-narrator, explains it, spiky Renée “has the same simple refinement as a hedgehog: a deceptively indolent little creature, fiercely solitary - and terribly elegant”.
How does Pandora know?
She’s 12, and plans to commit suicide and burn the place down on her 13th birthday. Yet she’s a lovely child - she just feels that life has no meaning. Then she meets those who gives it meaning.
Slapstick sometimes - an encounter with a Japanese toilet that plays Mozart’s Requiem, hiccups on a proposal of love - but mostly it’s the way Renée and Pandora satirise the world of the shallow, cruel rich.
Renée is doing an ace imitation of a typical concierge: flat feet, dull stare - while secretly living the life of an aesthete. Pandora is a manga fan, super-bright, witty, almost always silent.
And then, for the first time in generations, an apartment is sold, and a Japanese gentleman moves in. He’s the hub that connects and humanises the residents: the idle rich, the tramp who sleeps outside in his cardboard box…
Plotty and gripping?
Oh no, this story moves gently along, interrupted only by the reader’s guffaws as Renée and Pandora slice into the false lives of the rich and the affectations of the intellectual.
It’s a buy?
A wonderful book.