Former financial expert Becky Brandon (nee Bloomwood) has everything she ever wanted – a great job as personal shopper in London’s newest up-market clothes chain, a loving husband who can afford to support her shopping habit (especially after the latest deal, currently in progress), a newly-discovered half-sister, and a honeymoon pregnancy. So why is her life falling apart?
In this fifth instalment in the Shopaholic series, Kinsella has managed to perfectly capture the mindless, acquisitive, must-have-the-latest-thing mentality of a sub-set of London fashionistas, combined with the one-up-manship of celebrity pregnancy. It’s to her credit that her heroine, who fits the archetypal chick lit model, isn’t frustrating and grating, at least to me. Somehow, despite the shoe fetish, compulsive spending, self-directed focus, tendency to florid dramatisation, and penchant for digging herself into huge holes that a straight-forward explanation at the beginning would have avoided, Becky is endearing. She has a naïve sweetness that shines through the shopping addiction and orientation on trivialities. The novel also has a couple of substantial secondary plots (what’s Luke’s big secret – something to do with work, an affair with his university girlfriend [who sends him texts in Latin] or both?), satisfying pay-offs, and a great cast of supporting characters, from Becky’s vaguely odd-ball family and husband Luke’s icy mother to Becky’s friends and extended circle, and the celebrity obstetrician, Dr Venetia Carter.
The series would unquestionably be too much in one go but, read spaced out and as light relief from incredibly densely written sociology chapters (school’s back!), Shopaholic & Baby was a welcome, refreshing and rewarding change of pace. – Alex