Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Review: Wedding Night - Sophie Kinsella

Lottie just knows that her boyfriend is going to propose during lunch at one of London’s fanciest restaurants. But when his big question involves a trip abroad, not a trip down the aisle, she’s completely crushed. So when Ben, an old flame, calls her out of the blue and reminds Lottie of their pact to get married if they were both still single at thirty, she jumps at the chance. No formal dates—just a quick march to the altar and a honeymoon on Ikonos, the sun-drenched Greek island where they first met years ago. Their family and friends are horrified. Fliss, Lottie’s older sister, knows that Lottie can be impulsive—but surely this is her worst decision yet. And Ben’s colleague Lorcan fears that this hasty marriage will ruin his friend’s career. To keep Lottie and Ben from making a terrible mistake, Fliss concocts an elaborate scheme to sabotage their wedding night. As she and Lorcan jet off to Ikonos in pursuit, Lottie and Ben are in for a honeymoon to remember, for better . . . or worse.

Sophie Kinsella is arguably one of Britain's most anticipated romance authors and her latest, already a New York Times best seller, is proving to be one of her most popular yet. Kinsella is perhaps best known for her Shopaholic series with her stand alone novels never having yet reached the same success or acclaim. I first read Kinsella when I was in highschool, I think at that time she'd only realised the first three or four Shopaholic books. I must admit, I really didn't like them. I couldn't connect with Rebecca 'Becky' Bloomwood and her spending habits. Even as a teenager, I found her overly silly and her financial decisions baffling. Now, this may be due to the fact that I never really had any money as a teen so I treated all my shopping decisions as serious business and I was also never really that into fashion (both still true, by the way). Either way, it seems I went against the tide and really enjoyed her stand alone novels much more. In fact, whenever I think of my favourite romance books Can You Keep a Secret always sneaks into the top ten. I've always found Kinsella's heroines to be remarkably similar; startling naive, frivolous and a bit too giddy, so it was with a bit of trepidation that I picked up Wedding Night.

Wedding Night is Kinsella's first novel from two character's POV, the plot focuses on the tale of two sisters, Fliss and Lottie. Lottie is the archetypal Kinsella heroine, idealistic and impulsive; Fliss, in contrast, is cynical and weary.  I found both sisters difficult to connect with, although Fliss is the more relatable character I feel. The men in Wedding Night are almost peripheral characters, as in many of Kinsella's novels, and we don't learn much about them apart from Ben, Lottie's gap year romance. Ben I found to be an almost detestable character, most of his scenes in the novel feature him either drunk and impulsive or frustrated and aggressive and I don't believe that at any point Kinsella successfully manages to make us feel any sympathy for this spoiled, and clearly lost, man.

The main plot of the novel is Lottie's whirlwind wedding to lost love Ben and their honeymoon on the island of Ikonos. Fliss, determined that Lottie is ruining her life and in a misguided attempt to save her from the bitter war of divorce, decides to sabotage their wedding night so that their marriage can be annulled through grounds of non-consumation. The subsequent scenes read more like an attempt at a slapstick sitcom script and quickly lose any vestige of humour and spiral into the ridiculous (SPOILER: including Fliss managing to have Lottie massaged in peanut oil, to which she is allergic). Fliss' tale of racing across Europe with her infant son, Ben's colleague and Lottie's ex, Richard, is the more serious narrative with a learning curve built in for each character. The humour in this instance is provided by Fliss' infant son who, clearly affected by his parent's less than acrimonious split, tells numerous tall tales which land the band in some sticky situations, non of which seem to live up to their comedic potential. This addition to the story I found particularly troublesome as Noah is clearly a troubled little boy who is merely treated as a amusing plot device by Kinsella. The conclusion to Wedding Night felt like a quick attempt to wrap up everyone's story lines within the remaining word count, resulting in several loose ends and an abrupt and unfounded turn around for particular characters.

All in all I felt that Wedding Night had a lot of potential but the scenes that could have provided amusement were over done to the point of being awkward and on reflection I feel that the introduction of a secondary main character meant that non of the characters were developed well enough to induce sympathy or meaningful emotional development. Kinsella's habit of having us laugh at and not with her female characters leaves them remarkably one dimensional. Personally, I cannot connect with Kinsella's frivolous and flighty heroines, although I do understand that they and their antics appeal to others. Perhaps Kinsella is just not an author for me but, while not the worst book out there, I honestly don't think this is up to Kinsella's usual standards and I fear that her books are slowly slipping into formulaic situational comedies with little to recommend them or make them stand out from the crowd.

I really did want to enjoy the novel which is perhaps why I am so disappointed with Kinsella's latest offering. Let me know if you like Kinsella's heroines and if you enjoyed Wedding Night - am I being too harsh, let me know!

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