Saturday, 29 July 2006

Hard to Choos by Pixie Pirelli

Hard to Choos
Pixie Pirelli
(New Island €??)

Synopsis: Charlotte hates Paris, so when she wins a trip for two to the fabled capital of romance, she hands it off to her two best girl pals, and goes instead with her two best boy pals to a classy country house hotel. Cue confusion, madness – and lurve.

FLIRTY, funny and sexy, Hard to Choos is the perfect book to pack in your beach bag this summer.

Pixie Pirelli – new author, hmm? Well, Kate Thompson fans may remember that her last book, Sex, Lies and Fairytales, included a character by that name, author of a bestseller called – yes – Hard to Choos.

Thompson is having some fun here, writing in the persona of English Pixie (real name, confusingly, Jane Gray).

But enough about the author – what about her protagonist?

Charlotte Cholewcyk (pronounced Ho-lev-chick) is a disaster on teetering heels. Sweet and funny, she’s a magnet for all life’s straying pratfalls.

It’s not helped by her habit of talking too fast when she needs to explain her way out of trouble.

Imagine Charlotte, dressed all in the sultry Coco de Mer underwear she’s helped friend Alex buy for his actress girlfriend – now his ex-girlfriend, thanks to one of Charlotte’s misunderstandings. And now the ex is demanding her birthday Coco-threads back.

Imagine Charlotte swimming in bra and pants across the country home hotel’s lake – only to be confronted by the sight of the aristocratic goats munching her floaty white dress and flowery hat back on shore.

Imagine her trying to reclaim her threads from the same goats, then leaping into the lake when she proves strangely attractive to the devil-eyed caprines.

Imagine her, too tender-hearted to eat a turbot when its dead, flat eye is staring her in the face, trying to convince her hostess that she has a terrible allergy to the cat that’s purring its way into the handbag where she’s concealed her fish dinner.

Imagine her in borrowed bling light-up shoes, flash-flashing her way across the drawing room of the hotel where all the guests are dressed in the best of all possible taste.

And amid the chaos, imagine dishy Alex – closer than a brother, Charlotte’s buddy since childhood and the kid who accompanied her through every scraped knee – suddenly transmuting into Mr Right.

Even Paris changes its tune, until by the end, tootsies tucked into the perfect Choos, hand-in-hand with the man of her dreams, Charlotte finds true happiness in the city of love. Very satisfying.

Friday, 14 July 2006

Gone with the Windsors by Laurie Graham

Gone With the Windsors
Laurie Graham
Harper Perennial
Price ??

Synopsis: The hilarious diary of wealthy young American widow Maybell Brumby, who moves to England in the 1930s, where she flirts and dances on the sidelines of the abdication scandal as her old school pal Wallis Simpson captures the Prince of Wales.

DELICIOUSLY funny and so gripping you can't put it down unless you drop it from laughing too hard, this is the book of the season.

Laurie Graham's first book, The Future Homemakers of America, wowed readers and gave her the setting she loved best - Americans in Britain in the years around WWII.

She’s on top form as Maybell observes the Wallis Simpson events.

She's a typical upper-class girl. "The King of Belgium died," one diary entry reads. "We didn't know him."

She's living in perilous times. In Germany, there's vicious street fighting ("The Communists are behind it, of course, picking on the National Socialists.") In Britain, one must decide what to wear.

Maybell’s sister Violet is married to Scottish Lord Melhuish, whose three children, Ulick (sickening prig), Rory (sweetie) and Flora (untamed sprite) are minded by Maybell's other sister, Doopie (short for Stupid), who lost her mind after a fever, or maybe didn't and just went deaf.

There are fabulous characters here: the hard-bitten Wallis and her intimidated but adoring prince live in a whirl of real people with whom author Graham has great fun.

The Morgan girls - Gloria Vanderbilt is one of them - flit from side to side of the Atlantic. The Boss Crokers come and visit. Mr Hitler is always in the background, and the creepy acquiescence of the upper classes to Nazism is perfectly reflected.

Maybell, who sees herself as a cynical sophisticate, is such a softie really, and a bit of a blonde. Invited to a party, she's astonished to find that, democratically, a man who runs a news agency is coming. Apparently his little shop is called Reuters, but no one seems to know where it is.

Get the flu immediately so you can stay in bed and read this book. More fun than a barrel of monkeys.

Apparently Graham's next book is about the darker side of the Kennedys. My oh my.