Sunday, March 30

Catherine Barry – Skin Deep

Finn O’Farrell’s never been happy with herself – flat-chested, tubby, uninteresting hair, it’s no wonder her boyfriend left her. Well, she arranged a spectacular fight that allowed her to kick him, but only to avoid being dumped. Lurching between chocolate and alcohol, besieged by flashbacks of her miserable and somewhat neglected childhood, Finn has a revelation in a lingerie shop and finally realises what she needs to turn her life around. So, after taking out a £3,500 loan from the Credit Union she works at in Dublin, Finn checks into hospital over Christmas and has breast augmentation and readies herself to change her world.
I was pleased that the post-op scenes were realistically crafted, with unexpected pain and unsightly bruising etc. Unfortunately, that’s about the only thing I was pleased with. I so want to read a chick lit novel that doesn’t obsessively focus on size dissatisfaction (though at least there’s no shoe obsession). Finn’s tormented by pretty much everything, including the unfolding childhood misery we’re hammered over the head with in slabs of italicised flashbacks that stylistically mirror the heavily tell-don’t-show style of the novel in general. If I didn’t know from the blurb that this is Barry’s third published novel I’d think it was her first, so laden with angst is it.
Finn herself is unsympathetic – so self-obsessed, short-sighted and filled with self-loathing that it’s hard to see how she has friends, let alone the obligatory crossed-wire romantic lead. And the frequent referencing to the millennium, which undoubtedly made Skin Deep topical when it was published, serve now to only reinforce how dated it is. The family reconciliation is tacked on at the end, and I found the whole thing profoundly irritating. But I finished which, in light of my recent increase in unfinished books, is something. – Alex

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