Saturday, 30 March 2013

Noughties Nostalgia: The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic

Wow. Who would have thought this book is now old enough to count as nostalgia? Since its release in 2000, The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic (published as Confessions of a Shopaholic in the United States and Canada,) has gone on to spawn an entire series of novels and a somewhat lackluster film that has little in common with the book. (Well, apart from the lead character's name and spending habits.)

The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic was the first novel to be penned by UK author Madeleine Wickham under her pseudonym Sophie Kinsella and told the story of Becky Bloomwood a university graduate who, despite working for a financial magazine, was unable to control her spending habits. Much of the comedy revolved around Becky's compulsion for shopping and her inability to pay off her debts. Each chapter of the novel began with a letter from Becky to her bank, explaining why she was unable to pay back the money owed. As the novel wore on, Becky's attempts at alternately saving money and making more money often went hilariously awry (at one point she lies on a job resume, claiming that she can speak Finnish, at another she pins all her hopes on winning the lottery,) until she faces up to the fact that she needs to control her spending habits. And then there is a great subplot between her and her potential love interest, the sometimes-snooty Luke Brandon who runs a PR company. The magic of the book lay in the way the author alternated between reality and the absurd. Becky, her family and friends seemed very normal, while their situations were quite absurd--they were things that could happen to someone that you know, but probably wouldn't. As for Luke Brandon, well we know that in real life, a self-made PR man with above average looks is going to most likely be a complete douche bag who wouldn't have time for an outlandish girl from a lower-middle class background. The fact that he does not fit this stereotype and is a good person makes us like him.

Madeleine Wickham has gone on to write several more Shopaholic novels--Shopaholic Abroad, Shopaholic Ties the Knot, Shopaholic and Sister, Shopaholic and Baby and Mini Shopaholic, as well as several other novels using her now-famous pseudonym--Can You Keep a Secret, the Undomestic Goddess, Remember Me, Twenties Girl, I've Got Your Number and the soon-to-be-released Wedding Night.