Saturday, December 15, 2007

Book Review: The Undomestic Goddess

Have you ever wished you could just leave your life behind, shed all responsibilities, all demands, your entire identity? Sophie Kinsella, author of the popular Shopaholic series, explores such a fantasy.

I always hesitate before I pick up a book categorized as "chick lit." I guess I have a little residual English teacher prejudice (from reading, studying, being taught, and teaching classic literature). The simple fact is that back in the day I wonder what some of our so-called classic literature would have been called--some of it could have been called chick lit (Jane Austen anyone?). Regardless, I have learned to appreciate a variety of literature. To get my students reading I encouraged them to read anything from action adventure graphic novels to romance novels with bare chested men on the covers. When you see their noses buried in books, you just can't help but get excited.

But, I digress. I'm hear to discuss Kinsella's novel. I had heard about the Shopaholic series for a few years, but never had a chance to grab a copy of the book. So, when perusing the shelves recently, I came across The Undomestic Goddess. The premise sounded interesting enough. It had the whole "fish out of water" scenario along with a healthy mix of romance, humor, and a sprinkle of feminism (though flipped on its head in many ways).

Samantha, the main character, is a workaholic. She is striving to obtain partner in her prestigious London law firm. Because of this, she seldom has time to maintain proper relationships let alone to clean her flat, wash her clothes, or cook herself a decent meal. Samantha feels the pressure of her high-powered job, but she also feels that the reward of partner will be enough to compensate.

That is, until she makes a monumental mistake that sends her spiraling . . . to a small town where no one knows her. In a case of mistaken identity Samantha becomes the very thing that she not only has been trained not to be, but that she has absolutely no clue how to be--a domestic, a housekeeper, to be exact. It is an odd decision that Kinsella has Samantha make, but it is one that propels her into a world of self-discovery clich├ęd, but very fitting term). Kinsella mixes enough humor to elicit out-loud laughter. There is a touch of romance, but not enough to feel that this is a romance with other stuff thrown in. Romance works as another catalyst for Samantha to see who she was and who she truly wants to be.

I do love the fact that there is a level of vindication at the end--something that Kinsella does not make easy for our protagonist. Kinsella's writing is light enough to digest, yet heavy enough to leave a pleasant taste behind. You aren't bogged down with non-essential detail and you aren't overwhelmed by non-stop action. It truly is a perfect mix. On a scale from 1-10 (best): 7


Allie Boniface said...

Yeah, I'm the same way about romance/chick lit, being a "traditional" English teacher and all. Then I started writing, and realized for marketing purposes I would be a lot more likely to sell if I labeled my own work "romance" (which basically just means it has a happy ending). So sigh.

Having said that, I read one of Kinsella's books a couple of years ago and really disliked it. Too much silly fluff and a narrator whose voice I didn't like at all.

Thanks for the tip about the cheap download music, by the way!

madamspud169 said...

Thanks for visiting.
Youare more than welcome to use the job description. I got it through one of those e-mails sent by everyone so it's free for all as far as I know.

Beth is wfg said...

I have to be in the right mood to read chick lit. Much as I like romance novels, chick lit is often a little TOO fluffy for me. And I'm not an English teacher! lol

I've heard there's such a thing as 'Mom Lit' (chick lit about moms) but I haven't really looked for it. Have you seen any of it?

Aliki2006 said...

I've heard of the series, too--I might give it a go, on your recommendation!

Note to Beth is wfg: there is lots of "mom lit" out there. If you go to you will find some excellent, excellent writing, reviews, editorials all written about various issues concerning motherhood. It's an amazing place to start!

Angela said...

Looks like a good read..I'll have to look for it!

LaskiGal said...

Allie--I felt that way about Candace Bushnell . . . for the most part I got a kick out the Sex in the City series, but was disappointed by most of her books. You hit it dead on . . . sometimes the voice really gets to you. I like to like my narrator or at least feel some level of respect for him/her. If I don't, I find it hard to continue (though I often will).

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