Book Review: A Desirable Residence

Image via Chick Lit+

Rating: 3 out of 5

I’ve just finished my 19th book! I always enjoy reading Madeleine Wickham novels, but I must admit that she’s greatly improved her craft ever since she started going by the pen name Sophie Kinsella. She’s most famous for her Confessions of a Shopaholic series, which I haven’t read, but I absolutely love all her stand-alone novels, such as Twenties Girl and The Undomestic Goddess.

I reviewed Wickham’s book The Wedding Girl over the summer, and after reading dystopian classics 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, it was nice to read something less dense.

A Desirable Residence (1996) follows a close-knit group of Brits who are all involved in a certain home in Silchester. Liz and Jonathan Chambers own the home, but they–along with their 14-year-old daughter Alice–needed to move into the tutorial college that they just purchased.

Stuck with two mortgages, they ask real estate agent Marcus Witherstone for help. Soon Marcus finds the Chambers family two tenants: Ginny and her actor husband Piers. Piers is up for a big TV role, and Ginny is obsessed with the life of fame and fortune that they’re so close to reaching.

Depressed over the loss of their old home, Alice frequents the place and grows quite fond of hanging out with Piers and Ginny, who seem so much cooler than her parents. However, in the end, she realizes that all of the adults around her are nothing but disappointments.

Needless to say, the title of this book is ironic, because there’s nothing desirable about this residence or anyone living in it. I pitied Alice and Marcus’ sons, Daniel and Andrew, because they are merely pawns in this ridiculous game their parents play. Marriage, parenthood, career–nothing is sacred to these obnoxious, entitled people.

Unless you’re a fan of adulterous spouses, overbearing parents, or spineless fraudsters, you are going to hate 95% of these characters. Wickham does an excellent job of depicting real-life relationships, but as Kinsella, she does the same with characters you also like and respect.

This book was interesting enough to make me want to finish it, but I think that I’ll stick with the author’s most recent work from now on.

Book Review: The Wedding Girl

Cover of "The Wedding Girl"

Image via Amazon

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Over the weekend I finished The Wedding Girl (1999) by Madeleine Wickham, a UK author who also goes by her pen name Sophie Kinsella. She’s most famous for her Shopaholic series, which I haven’t read yet (although I’ve seen the adorable movie “Confessions of a Shopaholic” starring Isla Fisher and Hugh Dancy). However, I’ve read and loved all of Kinsella’s stand-alone novels: Can You Keep a Secret? (2005), The Undomestic Goddess (2006), Remember Me? (2008), and Twenties Girl (2009).

Needless to say, I wasn’t worried that I wouldn’t enjoy Wickham’s older work. The Wedding Girl is about Milly Havill, who married an American gay man at 18 so he could stay in the UK, but now a decade later, she’s about to marry her fiance Simon Pinnacle–The wedding’s days away, and she hasn’t gotten divorced yet! Of course, chaos explodes when her secret finally gets out, but the question remains: who spilled the beans?

This is a hilarious story with many serious moments. Wickham addresses issues like homosexuality, unplanned pregnancy, and death with poise and tact, so the reader never feels the writing is polarized. The subplots of Milly’s gay friends and her sister’s secret pregnancy are just as interesting as all the wedding drama, and all the characters are equally frustrating and endearing in their own way.

Many readers prefer Wickham’s alter-ego Kinsella, and I agree, but only because I believe that she’s improved her writing over time. Fortunately for her, her success has allowed her to re-release her older novels, including her very first novel The Tennis Party, which will be released again in the US on August 30 under the title 40 Love.

The Wedding Girl is definitely a character novel with little actual moving action, but it’s a good read nonetheless. I would recommend Kinsella’s stand-alone novels with more enthusiasm. I always look forward to her books!