Sophie Kinsella is one of my favourite authors and I was surprised when I realized how many books she’d written since I’d last read Remember Me?. Thankfully, I came to my senses and now own almost all of her standalone novels (not a huge fan of the Shopaholic series). One of the reasons why I love Kinsella’s writing so much is because of her fluent use of humour and romance in stories that show female protagonists learning life lessons. But mostly, and I won’t delude myself to say that this isn’t a huge part of why I love her writing, I love the romance. Kinsella’s novels ARE Chick Lit, no matter what other fancy genre titles may be put on her stories. These are empowering stories that encourage female readers to not settle for the expected, or to not settle for less than what they deserve.
The Undomestic Goddess did not disappoint in serving as a warning to all you workaholics out there. There is a life outside of the office, life is good and relaxing living in a middle-of-nowhere town where no one knows who you are or that you barely sleep, and that there might be an extremely well-built, sexy worker waiting for you. This is what awaits you in Kinsella’s novel. So, you workaholics, ever thought what type of life you’d be living if you weren’t attached to your phone or constantly checking your emails? Then, give this one a look if you feel the need for inspiration.
Samantha Sweeting is a workaholic lawyer living in London who always gets home late, rarely has dinner with her family (unless it is a quick dinner, full of beeping cellphones and business oriented conversations), and has just made a big, big mistake. In a state of shock, she leaves her office before the crisis fully erupts and jumps on a train. To where? She doesn’t know. In fact, she’s still going over her BIG MISTAKE. When she does get off the train, she’s suddenly in a new predicament when she gets mistaken for a housekeeper interviewing for a job at a big house, when she just needed directions. Now, Samantha has to learn how to cook, clean, and do other menial housework, while keeping her identity a secret. She begins to question her life when she sees that there’s more to life than business mergers, and when she unexpectedly starts falling in love.
There were a few things that irked me by the end of this novel and that’s mainly why I’m not rating it perfectly, but other than these little occurrences, I enjoyed the story!
- One of the issues I always tend to have with Kinsella’s characters is how oblivious and/or rude they are before their transformations. I know that they change and become better people, but Kinsella sometimes takes it a bit too far. Samantha is one of those people that I would loath to meet when I am at work at my coffee shop. Before she becomes a girl who doesn’t care too much about her “important” career, Samantha is ruthlessly rude, narrow-minded, and intimidating. There’s even a hint at the beginning that her secretary hates her. But, one other thing that I really don’t like about Kinsella’s protagonists is how naive they can be before they have their moments of clarity near the end. This is a technique that Kinsella has adopted and I can see that it is one that a) sometimes works for her and b) sometimes doesn’t. The problem with sticking to this method of writing is that the stories become predictable, so onto my next point.
- The storyline was a bit predictable. This didn’t deter me from the story because there were still moments where I was happily surprised, but some of the choices that Samantha made and what happened to her were a bit predictable. I don’t want to ruin the experience for anyone, but if you’re a fan of Kinsella you may have noted that the protagonists tend to take a huge step backwards from what they’ve learned throughout the novel near the end, right before realizing what they’ve done and righting their lives once more. Like I said in my previous point, it seems like Kinsella has stuck to this routine since it hasn’t really failed her yet.
- One of the greater issues in the novel regarding her family isn’t really resolved. SPOILER ALERT Samantha mentions a brother who had a breakdown and became a teacher several years before the events of the novel, yet Kinsella doesn’t explore this relationship further. Also, I felt deflated when Samantha’s horrible relationship with her controlling mother was left unfinished. To her credit, Kinsella did have Samantha stand up to her mother, but there wasn’t really any form of conclusion between the two. Yes, Samantha DID take control of her life back from her mother, but, at the risk of sounding cliche, couldn’t Kinsella have found a slightly better resolution between the two? This is one of the other problems I have with Kinsella’s characters sometimes, they are sometimes left as what they are instead of growing. I know Samantha’s mother was a one-dimensional character, but she was Samantha’s mother for goodness sake. In all honestly, I was disappointed with this relationship, considering how well Kinsella has portrayed previous parent-child/child-in-law relationships.
- Despite all of the negatives mentioned above, I am a sucker for chick lit. Kinsella’s writing is fluent and humorous, making it a quick and fun read. Unless you’re like me and look at the novel too critically. The Undomestic Goddess is no exception. I can always count on Kinsella for a good laugh.
- Though a bit predictable, Kinsella has the gift of writing fun, feel-good stories. She creates worlds where foreign readers can feel part of the England and UK atmosphere with her witty and hilarious diction. I found myself enthralled with this small town that Samantha arrives in and the descriptions made me want to be part of that world.
- Though sometimes annoyingly naive, Kinsella’s protagonists, like Samantha, have strong voices that always mark the beginning of the story. Kinsella isn’t a writer who begins her stories with long descriptions or with an intelligent sentence. Instead, her protagonist’s voice is always the first thing the reader meets, and the personality of the character is immediate. For example, first line of The Undomestic Goddess is: “Would you consider yourself stressed?” (Kinsella). This line actually belongs to a questionnaire that Samantha is filling out and the interesting thing is that Kinsella, without having a fully developed, over-thought sentence, has already introduced the gist of Samantha. Is she stressed? Could this character be a workaholic?
Despite the issues that I found in The Undomestic Goddess, I enjoyed this novel. The problems that I did find are more a pattern in Kinsella’s writing rather than problems specific to this novel. But hey, I still love Sophie Kinsella and I can’t wait to read her future works. If you enjoy cute and fun Chick Lit with an edge (slight swearing, slight sex), then I suggest that you read Kinsella’s work. In the world of Chick Lit, Kinsella is definitely a name to keep an eye on and any fan of feisty protagonists should check out the other novels by this author!
I give The Undomestic Goddess: