Confessing (One of) My Literary Sins: The Shopaholic Series

Okay. I admit it! I like chick lit. I do. I know that as a self-proclaimed student of serious literature that I shouldn’t. But I can’t help it. The books are funny and, for me, the ultimate escape. I can read them quickly without effort and at the end I feel relaxed and rejuvenated. Where’s my literary self-respect? I guess when it comes to one particular chick lit author, I have none. I’ve read every last book by Sophie Kinsella. She’s famous for her Shopaholic series, which became a movie starring Isla Fisher in 2009. The movie mashes several of the books into one plot, which is why I would recommend reading the books instead.

Now, if you’re sensitive to swearing, these books aren’t for you. They aren’t riddled with expletives, but the occasional f-bomb will appear. The author is British, and I don’t know if that has anything at all to do with why she uses the mother of all swear words more than I would, but we’ll say that’s why. And as a side note, when British people swear, it just sounds elegant. One of my English professors is British. She can make any nasty word sound lovely, and she did.

My favorite part of Kinsella’s books is the fact that her main characters (basically all a version of Becky Bloomwood, the protagonist of the Shopaholic series) are hilarious. They are the Lucy Ricardos of fiction. My favorite television show is I Love Lucy. I love the antics, the slap stick comedy, and the zaniness of the situations. I am somewhat buttoned up and boring, therefore characters who create drama through seemingly crazy decisions delight me. I will never be that person, but I can live vicariously through Lucy and Becky. For me, reading their foibles is a safe way for me to act out, in my head, on the couch, while eating bonbons.

I recently finished Kinsella’s newest book I’ve Got Your Number. It’s about an engaged woman named Poppy Wyatt who loses her priceless, emerald engagement ring at the novel’s start. She also ends up losing her phone in the midst of this terror and finding another phone – another company’s phone – in the trash. Well, hilarity ensues as the owner of that phone wants it back and she desperately clings to it as her only lifeline to finding her engagement ring. I had already laughed out loud five times while reading at only a third of the way through the book. At one point, Poppy (whose name I keep wanting to mistype as “Poopy” – I guess I’ve been a mom for too long) ends up stalling a group of Japanese businessmen by pretending to be a singing telegram. She sings “Mr. Yamasaki” to the tune of Beyonce’s All the Single Ladies over and over until the person who wants the man stalled arrives.

I know, as I describe this scene it sounds ridiculous. For those of you who are high minded about literature (which I am, I promise), this is not going to get your attention. I’m sure you’ve decided that I’m nuts. Why would anybody enjoy such stupidity? But, I do. I really do.

In my defense, there is a scene in which Poppy’s future in-laws, all academics with Ph.D.s, play Scrabble with her. They put down gargantuan words that score 50 to 70 points a pop. I’ve scored such words before, but not on every single turn. (My current score on an online version of Scrabble called Lexulous that I’m playing with my husband is 334 to 165. See, I’m pretty good!) Anyway, I won’t ruin the scene for you, but Poppy ends up winning the game in a humorous manner. So, Scrabble makes this book okay, right?

There’s another mix up in which a male friend of Poppy’s takes her to get a fake engagement ring made so her snooty, future in-laws won’t discover her mistake at losing it. The shop girls believe Poppy is picking out an engagement ring with the friend, so when they realize that she’s picked a fake and then downgrades the material it’s made from in front of them, they are aghast at cheapness of her supposed “fiance.” Then, he makes her pay for it, since he’s just a friend, not her betrothed. I could not stop chuckling at this scene, as the value of the ring kept plummeting and the gasps of the shop girls got more incredulous.

Now, Sophie Kinsella is a pen name. Her real name is Madeleine Wickham and she once wrote more serious novels. I read one once. It wasn’t good. In fact, it was terrible. I’m not criticizing her. I think if I wrote a novel it would probably fall flatter than I thought hers did. However, what I admire about her is the reinvention. She got a pen name, changed her writing style, and voila, she’s a bestselling, filthy rich, movie-contract-getting author. Her work may be rubbish, as the British would say, but she’s good at it and she’s become successful because of it.

Madeleine Wickham, a.k.a. Sophie Kinsella, from Wikimedia Commons

And, it’s not really rubbish. It’s amusing and it’s entertaining. I’m a fan, and since I’m posting this for everybody to see, I guess I now have to openly admit that I like Sophie Kinsella novels and chick lit. What literary confessions can you make? Are you a closet fan of anything?

And don’t worry. I won’t be confessing to love any book in the Twilight series. Ever.


29 thoughts on “Confessing (One of) My Literary Sins: The Shopaholic Series

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  1. You just go ahead and love it. I think a lot of people love it. As well as a lot of men who love grocery store romances but will never admit it outside of their comfortable bedroom.

    I just wish they’d stop calling it “chick lit.”

    1. Thank you! I will go ahead and love it. And I agree. The term “chick lit” is demeaning somehow. I don’t know what else to call it. Maybe feminine fiction?

      1. That might work. Even “women’s fiction” is getting a lot of hate lately with recent articles about publishing of men more than women. I think if we have “chick lit” that men should have “dick lit” and that will make it all okay – haha.

  2. I don’t think we need to apologize for loving the chick lit genre! I am heading to an English M.A. program in the Fall with the intention of discussing chick lit academically. I think what throws people off within that setting is that I don’t want to bash chick lit. Instead, I find a lot of merit in it from a literary and feminist standpoint.

    Like right now, I’m writing a paper about Shopaholic! I have only read the first book, but I love it! It is sharp, quick, and witty. But most interesting is what it is saying about “good” vs. “bad” womanhood. I think Becky subverts notions of deviant consumption to send a message about women’s autonomy in both the domestic and public spheres.

    Anyway, thanks for your post!

    1. I love it! Discussing chick lit academically is a great idea! I actually read a collection of academic essays once that did just that. Are you planning to focus your thesis on “chick lit”?

  3. Okay… Do I dare?

    Being a veteran U.S. Army Ranger, working in personal protection (bodyguard), and teaching hand-on-hand and close-quarters combat I believe I fall into the “manly-man” realm of manhood. So, it is with great abashment for me to admit that I love the girly writings of Amy Tan.

    Okay, so they’re not as girly as yours but most of her work makes me laugh, cringe, cry, etc. Although her books are not as pulp-ish as Sophie Kinsella’s works this is still a confession non-the-less.

    If your meaning pulp then I’ve got a few:

    Don Pendleton (Stony Man book series – Mack Bolan, The Executioner, Phoenix Force, Able Team) are very teen-boy.

    Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files Series) – I let you borrow these but you couldn’t get into them

    Most of the trash that came from Britain’s New English Library Youthsploitation books from the 70’s by writers like Richard Allen and Mick Norman. These books had titles like Skinhead, Boot Boys, Hell’s Angels, Mama, The Devil’s Bike, and many more just as ridiculous.

    And my favorite pulp writer? Stewart Home. With titles like Cranked Up Really High, Pure Mania, Defiant Pose, 69 Things to Do with a Dead Princess, and Blood Rights of the Bourgeoisie you can see that draw to someone of a juvenile mind. I don’t recommend Home to anyone who is easily offended.

    I could go on and on but rummaging through my book shelves is making a huge mess that I will procrastinate cleaning for a few weeks.

    1. LOL! I’m imagining you sitting on your floor surrounded by books and then just getting up and walking away. I do it all the time, but usually after my toddler has strewn the books about and I just don’t have the strength to put them back.

      And, wow, you have a lot of confessions. I feel better now. 🙂

      1. Yeah… My 15-year old son has a cleaner and neater room than I do. I call it being tired… He calls it being old.

  4. I love those books too but my favorite guilty pleasure is “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” series. I am way to old for them but they envoke all sorts of emotion. They are books that will make you laugh and cry. And as much as I hate to admit it, I have them on my bookshelf for everyone to see.

    1. I love the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. They are wonderful! I can’t wait until my daughter is old enough to read them so I can read them with her again and pretend that I’m just doing my motherly duty instead of actually enjoying every minute of it…

  5. I am surprised you like her. I love her and the British humor. Now I don’t feel so bad for reading almost everything she has written. Have you read “Can you keep a secret?” That is probably my favorite.

  6. Kinsella is my sin as well. Becky Bloomwood irks me the older I get because she does not seem to grow–rather she is always rescued. When I was in my twenties and lived at home with my parents with no bills I loved her character. I preferred The Undomestic Goddess, Twenties Girl, and Can You Keep a Secret? .

    1. Great observation! Becky seems to change toward the end of each book, but the next one shows her making the same mistakes all over again. I guess that is the problem with series and formulaic writing.

  7. I hope that you don’t mind I’m cluttering up your blog with all these comments. My son woke me up at 3 a.m. and I’m enjoying catching up on your blog.

    I think we all need serious and funny, or serious and mindless, or just something different from time to time. Just like I need to go to MacDonald’s about once a month! I love the guilty pleasures and the harder you work the better they feel. I like mysteries and that’s what I’ve been reading since June. I try to stick with literature or literary fiction for the most part but at the moment I’m in literary fast food mode.

    Thanks for confessing! I know you’re not the only one 😉

    1. Nope! I am definitely not alone. 🙂 I love that you are reading and commenting. It is taking me down memory lane on some of these older posts. And “talking” with you is fun!

  8. P.S. I’m so embarrassed to admit that I used to love VC Andrews (Flowers in the Attic, etc.), but I suppose many 14 year girls did?

  9. Sophie Kinsella’s books are most definetly my guilty pleasure of books. They are my go to when I want a light read without much effort, and to laugh out loud. Laughing out loud at her books is probably my favourite part of reading them. No other books do this for me and it is so fun not knowing when to expect another laugh. The audio books are just as fun and made real authentic by Emily Gray’s Bristish accent!

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