Thursday, August 08, 2002

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Some books do earn my righteous indignation. Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella, lent to me by Emma on the weekend, is one of them. Not that it's a badly written book-- far from it! Badly written books just make me laugh (or weep, as the case may be). A weak book cannot provoke more than annoyance; I read this one in four hours, and it made me sulk and rage for a good hour afterward. Escapist literature is supposed to provide a distraction, not drive you to distraction!

Our heroine (if you can call her that) Becky Bloomwood spends the entire book alternately spending way too much money and trying to get out of paying her debts by devious means, telling all kinds of horrendous lies along the way. Basically, all the petty little things that God, karma, and the law are supposed to punish... and of course, generally don't. Actually, it's quite a brilliant portrait of a morally weak and financially incompetent woman, which Sophie Kinsella cleverly layers under a cotton-candy wrapping of gorgeous clothes and glitzy giggles. So far, so good.

Unfortunately, Becky does not meet with her just desserts. By all the laws of fiction, as a flawed character, she ought to experience a life-changing epiphany before being rewarded in some way. By all the laws of nature, as a hopeless spendthrift with no work ethic to speak of, she ought to wind up bankrupt and out of a job. And yet, she somehow winds up with a fabulous job in television (just like Bridget Jones! Wow!) and snares a wealthy boyfriend too. All problems solved.

It is really too bad that a novel with so much potential should be brought down by such an ending. This book is too clever (and in some ways, too dark) to simply be a light escapist treat, and I wanted that epiphany-- or failing that, a gritty reality ending. I thought, briefly, during the scene in the tv studio where Becky is giving financial advice on-air and catches sight of her bank manager, that she was having her life-changing moment-- that she would face her problems and emerge victorious. But no... she simply finds a rich man to solve all her problems. The book ends with Becky blowing off a meeting with her bank manager to lounge in bed with her rich boyfriend, and we are left with the impression that all her financial worries will now be taken care of. It is a shameful ending for such a clever book.