Friday, January 21, 2011

Book Report: Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

I finished reading Sophie Kinsella's latest Rebecca Bloomwood installment, Mini Shopaholic, a couple of nights ago, and it was just as hilarious as I'd hoped it would be. The title refers to Becky's two-year-old daughter, Minnie, who just happens to be a shopaholic in training, looking up at her mom and hopefully inquiring, "Shop?" with the approach of each taxi. (She also exhibits some less-than-adorable behavior, such as ordering a dozen or so identical green jackets from eBay.)

Although Mini Shopaholic is the sixth book in Kinsella's shopaholic series, I think it's probably the funniest. Sure, Kinsella's debut Confessions of a Shopaholic was gripping in its sheer shock value as we watched Becky wriggle from the clutches of bill collector after bill collector while garnering fame as a financial expert and still bagging buys so extravagant and lust-worthy they (almost) made you want to max out your Visa. But now that Becky's a married woman with a daughter, all sorts of new opportunities for hide-your-head-under-the-pillow hijinks emerge. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough as I read about Minnie being banned from four pictures-with-Santa stands, Becky pleading with the moving truck driver to "lose" her parents as they follow her convoy-style to her nonexistent new house, and Becky trying to throw a lavish surprise birthday party for Luke on a shoestring, an enterprise that involves bartering for a tent and a fire-eating performance with her designer castoffs on the advice of her penny-pinching sister. But that's just the beginning. Becky also fends off a nanny and a child therapist, forges an unlikely alliance with Luke's estranged mother, and masterminds a "shop in secret" campaign in an effort to boost sales at the department store where she works as as personal shopper.

Yet at the heart of the book remains the manic, over-the-top, and always somehow magical accounts of, yes, shopping. I think Kinsella's genius lies in her ability to present Becky as simultaneously delusional and relatable. Kinsella often relays Becky's antics in a way that make her seem foolish, casting herself as the observant, voice-of-reason narrator and spinning the whole crazy tale toward satire. But then she'll tie it all up by describing the pure joy of finding the perfect pair of shoes, something that most woman can identify with (well, expect for those two in front of me in line at DSW the other day who told the cashier that they hated shoes and hated shopping but had come out because they needed sneakers). A no-holds-barred dollar store shopping spree (the brainchild of yet another failed "cutting back" attempt) and a therapist-chaperoned trip to an outlet mall grand opening unleash fresh bouts of unbridled spending for readers to vicariously enjoy. Here are a couple of my favorite shopping-related lines:

"God, I remember writing letters to Father Christmas when I was little. They used to get quite long and involved, with illustrations and pictures cut out of catalogs, just in case he got confused." (Kinsella 20)

"It's not that he [Luke] disapproves, exactly. I mean, it's my money, I earned it, I can do what I like with it. It's just that when Mum and I were up at 7:00 a.m. on Boxing Day, ready to hit the sales, Luke looked at us in bafflement, then looked at all the presents still under the tree, and then said, "Didn't you get enough stuff yesterday?" Which just goes to show how little he understands about anything. Christmas presents and the sales are totally different. They're like . . . different food groups." (Kinsella 45)

I used to write Christmas lists like that, pictures and all. (To be perfectly honest, I still do. Hey, twenty-eight-year-old women want their leopard booties just as much as five-year-old little girls want their Hula Mania Barbies [or whatever Barbie is out there these days]). And as for Christmas presents and day-after Christmas shopping purchases being completely different, I couldn't agree more.

At the end of the day, I can't help but think that Kinsella is on Becky's side after all, voice-of-reason narrator voice notwithstanding. Especially considering the author bio blurb on the back of Confessions of a Shopaholic: "Sophie Kinsella is a writer and former financial journalist. She is very, very careful with her money and only occasionally finds herself queuing for a sale. Her relationship with her bank manager is excellent."

One thing's for sure; I'll be the first one queuing up in line to buy the next shopaholic book. I know one's coming. Kinsella wouldn't end Mini Shopaholic by sending Becky and family off to Hollywood without a follow-up play-by-play :)

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