Sophie Kinsella, “The Undomestic Goddess”

Sophie Kinsella, author of chick-lit hits like the Shopaholic series, Remember Me and Twenties Girl, produces another charming novel with The Undomestic Goddess. Rife with humiliating moments, The Undomestic Goddess is good for a few, even several laughs.

Samantha Sweeting is a brilliant lawyer but somehow gets roped into working as a housekeeper in the suburbs of London. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have any domestic skills. She is incapable of doing laundry, fixing a meal, even vacuuming. With the help of new friends and a new love interest, Samantha begins to learn a little about housekeeping – and a lot about herself.

Plot Overview: Humor, Fulfillment and Vindication

Samantha is a high-flying lawyer at Carter Spink, one of London’s most prestigious firms. When she is on the verge of being named partner, she makes a critical mistake, costing one of the firm’s clients 50 million pounds. Shocked by her simple mistake and her certain termination, Samantha flees the office. She dazedly makes her way to the London countryside, where she is mistaken by a generous, if clueless couple as being a housekeeper. Uncertain what to do, Samantha plays along – until she realizes she’s actually been hired.

Hiding in the countryside, Samantha undergoes her own transformation. As she struggles to learn how to cook and clean, she gradually sheds the stress and unhappiness of her former career. In a happy turn of fate, she also meets Nathanial, the estate’s hunky gardener. Her feelings for Nathaniel grow – at least until she discovers his hatred of lawyers. The question is, can Nathaniel overcome his prejudice towards lawyers? And, if Nathaniel can get over his lawyer hang-ups, can Samantha summon her courage and face her former employers when she discovers she’s been wrongly terminated?

Criticisms and Compliments

By itself, The Undomestic Goddess is a sweet, humorous read. Kinsella easily blends humiliation with vindication, and like most of her protagonists, Samantha Sweeting is a little kooky. Compared to Kinsella’s other novels, however, The Undomestic Goddess falls a little short. It is funny, but it doesn’t reach the comic heights of cringe-worthy novels Twenties Girl or Can You Keep A Secret?.

In The Undomestic Goddess, Kinsella pairs Samantha’s lack of housekeeping abilities with her mother’s feminist ideals. This juxtaposition of opposing ideals doesn’t make for the funniest material, though Kinsella certainly tries. The strength of this novel actually lies in Nathaniel, its well-developed love interest. While potential boyfriends tend to appear superficial in Kinsella’s novels, Nathaniel, vulnerable yet strong, is a solid match for Samantha.

Despite its weaknesses, The Undomestic Goddess is still delightful. Fans of Kinsella will be pleased by the novel, which has a fantastic ending, and women trying to juggle between careers and housework can easily relate to Samantha. Overall, The Undomestic Goddess is cute and light, perfect for vacation reading.

Source:

  • Kinsella, Sophie. The Undomestic Goddess. Dell, 2007, ISBN 9780440242383

Sophie Kinsella, “Twenties Girl”

Lara Lington’s life has hit a slump: her boyfriend of six months has dumped her, her business partner has abandoned her to enjoy a carefree romance in India, and her family life is less than stellar. However, at the funeral of her long-forgotten great-aunt Sadie, Lara’s life takes on a dramatic change. Sadie, a ghost in the form of a twenty-something from the Roaring Twenties, not only speaks to Lara, but Lara can actually see her and speak back. The adventures – or, more accurately, the misadventures – that ensue are both hilarious and touching.

In Sophie Kinsella’s latest novel, Twenties Girl, chick-lit readers are introduced to another cheerful, yet accident-prone heroine. Lara Lington follows in the footsteps of her predecessors – Becky Bloomwood, Emma Corrigan and Samantha Sweeting – in her inability to avoid mortifying moments and emotional upheaval. However, with Kinsella’s trademark humor and gentle treatment, Twenties Girl tracks the journey of one woman in an endearing, satisfying way.

Plot Overview: Humor, Embarrassment and Karmic Retribution

In her life, Lara Lington is struggling just to tread water. Natalie, her absent business partner, is shallow, superficial, and screaming for a reality check. Lara’s ex-boyfriend, Josh, is disinterested and out of touch, yet Lara pines for him. Her unwillingness to see that their relationship is beyond repair leads to awkward moments with with her family; her parents, caring and careful, are reluctantly nudging Lara to move on, while her competitive sister revels in Lara’s pitiful love life. Finally, her uncle, an extremely successful businessman, holds his accomplishments over her family, leading to tension-filled gatherings.

When Sadie enters Lara’s life at the funeral, things begin to change. At first, Sadie’s unwelcome presence leaves Lara questioning her own sanity. And, as Lara is the only person who can see her, communication between the two becomes problematic; the results are both humorous and cringe-worthy. Between Sadie’s influences and Lara’s own ambitious desires, the two form a strong friendship and order up just desserts for the negative personalities in Lara’s life. Yet, as is the case with ghosts, Sadie’s presence is contingent on completing her unfinished business. Her eventual exit is poignant and sad, yet her impact leaves its mark on the blossoming Lara.

Criticisms and Compliments

Following the pattern of Kinsella’s other novels, Twenties Girl focuses on a somewhat bumbling, happy-go-lucky woman. However, the primary love interest, an American businessman temporarily working in London, appears shallow; while it is easy to gauge Lara Lington’s personality, feelings and temperament, those of her partner seem vague and incomplete. Lara is the primary character of Twenties Girl, but it would have added to the substance of the novel for secondary characters to have been more developed.

Despite the lack of some character development, Kinsella knows how to write a novel tempered with humor and realism, and her ability to imagine humiliating moments is terrific. Most importantly, Kinsella knows how to craft a satisfying ending; in Twenties Girl, itis so complete, so exacting and vengeful that it is worth two or three additional reads. Bravo to Kinsella for knowing the power of karmic retribution and for creating such a gratifying conclusion to Twenties Girl.

Source:

  • Kinsella, Sophie. Twenties Girl. The Dial Press, 2009 ISBN 9780385342025