Thursday, 30 July 2009

How Not To Shop - Carmen Reid

Move over Gok Wan and Trinny and Susannah, here comes Annie Valentine, personal shopper extraordinaire, taking her first faltering steps into the cut-throat world of TV, presenting a brand new makeover show. Her down-to-earth straight talking and sudden desire to set out on a new path in life mean she could well be the spiritual descendant of her namesake, Shirley Valentine ! - and her brave decision to follow her ambitions, giving up her secure job at a fashionable and expensive clothes shop to try to find personal fulfilment in a whole new area, is just as crushingly disappointing and doomed to failure as the elder Mrs Valentine's trip to Greece in the film !

This is chicklit for the older generations - not old age pensioners, just the 30-40 somethings ! I used to love chick lit tales of romance, sex and endless partying but it all seems a bit frothy and frivolous now. I find I like something I can get my teeth into a bit more. And here, we have elements of chick lit - boozing and schmoozing with a few rich celeb friends, girlie shopping trips, excited first steps into a glamorous new career ... but also the more "grown up" concerns such as paying off the mortgage and school fees, parenting decisions, existential questions about marriage, babies, illegitimate children and divorces. Us working mums, juggling jobs, kids and homes, can really sympathise with Annie's ups and downs, while nostalgically watching the antics of the botoxed bimbo, millionaire-magnet Svetlana, hanging on by the tips of her manicured nails to the lifestyle of youth and classic chicklit.

It's a feel-good story that packs in lots of laughs, like most chick lit, but not everything is rosy (think of poor Dinah and Connor and their baby issues) in this more realistic world of "hen-lit". Annie Valentine features in several other of Carmen Reid's books so I'd definitely like to go back and read the others now, to fill in the background to her story.

Publisher: Corgi Books (13 Aug 2009)

Paperback: 416 pages

ISBN-10: 0552158852
ISBN-13: 978-0552158855

star rating : 5/5


  1. Oooh straight from the horse's mouth (not that I'm calling Carmen Reid a horse !!), look out for the next Annie Valentine instalment next year ! :

    Hello cheryl,
    You are a lovely, lovely lady.
    I actually started writing my own meatier version of chick lit (while I was still breastfeeding!) because I found the girlie singleton stuff so exasperating!
    Anyway, I am incredibly impressed that not only are you reading but also reviewing when you have such a new baby on your hands, plus older children! Amazing! I think I would just be lying in a darkened room whimpering!
    I'm also very jealous you have moved to France. It's an aim, I will get there one day!
    Meanwhile, all my very, very best wishes and thank you so much for your lovely review. Annie Valentine is not available in French yet, but surely it can only be a matter of time?! The fourth and (final?) part of her story is coming out next year.
    Carmen xx

  2. Oooh did I coin a new word ?!!

    TransworldBookscheck out this great review of Carmen Reid's How Not to Shop We love Cheryl's new genre "hen-lit!"