Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella. Dell, a Division of Random House. 2001. Borrowed copy.
The Plot: Twenty-five year old Rebecca Bloomwood has a love affair with shopping. There's nothing like the rush of finding -- and buying -- that perfect sweater. Pair of boots. Mascara. Coffee. Dress. Notecards. But for some reason the credit cards won't leave her alone; they actually want to get paid. And, funny enough, Becky's job? A journalist. For a finance magazine.
The Good: OK, so yes, I am officially the last person in the entire world to read this series. A shout-out to my cousin Julie who handed all four to me and said (rightly so) I would love them.
I laughed at loud while reading this; kept on wanting to poke someone and say "listen to this line!" But, being by myself, couldn't do that. I love how perfectly Kinsella captures the joy of shopping: "For a moment we are both silent. It's as though we're communicating with a higher being. The god of shopping."
There's no getting around that Becky's problem isn't shopping; it's buying more than she can afford. I began reading this with an "uh oh, I hope the current financial circumstances don't make this a painful read." Far from it; it's a credit to Kinsella's talent that the book is funny and Becky is likable, despite the "sadder but wiser" reader vibe.
I'll be honest: while I'm not the shopaholic Becky is, I totally understand the "high" she gets, the way she imagines herself better, smarter, more liked with that new dress, makeup, sweater, scarf. Actually, upon finishing this book I really, really wanted to buy a new gray cardigan for the summer. Part of the attraction (for me) is to be able to think "well at least I'm not as bad as Becky is!" So far, I'm resisting the temptation to get that cardigan. (But I do have a 15% off coupon for the store it's at, so it would be like saving money, right?)
It's supposed to be funny that Becky, so bad at personal budgeting, is a journalist on a financial magazine. As she says, "I'm paid to tell other people how to organize their money." But about half way through the book, she gets angry (really angry) at someone for not taking her seriously; for seeing her as joke. And here's the thing; Becky is the one who is not taking herself seriously. As becomes apparent to the reader (and eventually Becky), Becky does know what she is talking about and reporting about. It just takes her a while to realize, because it's not the job she wanted, it's the job she ended up in. And Edmund Andrews has proven that managing one's own money is not the same as reporting on money matters. And, frankly -- while it may be made up and exaggerated for the story -- Becky's version of what happens at finance magazines (regurgitating press releases and attending press events where champagne is served) makes one more concerned about the overall finance industry rather than one twenty-somethings debt problems.
© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy