I am a HUGE fan of chick lit. I devour any chick lit I can find. I’m guilty of judging chick lit books by their covers, to the point where if I even like the color of the cover, I’ll add it to my “To Read” list. That being said, I wasn’t sure of what to expect from Madeleine Wickham’s Gatecrasher. For the three people out there who aren’t aware, Madeleine Wickham is the same person as Sophie Kinsella, the author of the famous Shopaholic series. Or rather, the other way around – Sophie Kinsella is a pen name for Madeleine Wickham.
I tried to read the Shopaholic books, I really did. But I just couldn’t handle it. As someone who is anal about being organized and knows exactly where every single penny she makes goes, I couldn’t deal with the compulsive shopping habit of the main character. I know people who justify spending $300 on a bag because it is half price; then at the end of the month, these people overdraw their checking account and can’t pay their rent. Then they come to me for a loan (these people are also known as my sister.) So to make a long story short, I couldn’t get through the Shopaholic books because they basically gave me an ulcer and made me cringe, which is why I approached Gatecrasher with trepidation.
And I was correct to approach it as such. I was not impressed with Gatecrasher. It is sort of funny, but not nearly as witty as the books of other British chick lit authors such as Marian Keyes. It is definitely a unique plot in the world of chick lit – a woman who is not written as a sympathetic heroine but uses men for their money and then leaves them. The problem is that the main character, Fleur, is selfish to the point where she turns the reader off. There were times I could not stand her. I thought that would soften as I progressed through the book, but I was wrong. The development of the main character is virtually nonexistent. To me, she seems to be the same at the end of the book as she was at the beginning – just as selfish, just as distasteful (and it wasn’t the plots to use men for their money that turned me off; it was actually the way she dealt with other characters, specifically Zara and Phillippa). If there is no character development in chick lit, if the girl doesn’t realize something fundamentally flawed about herself or the way she operates, or realize something that she has been blind to from the beginning, what’s the point in reading it?
Fleur does have a few redeeming qualities. For example, the way she deals with Gillian is actually quite charming. The transformation of that character is very satisfying. Also, though she goes through little change personally, she manages to change the people and situations around her. Her effect on Richard is also pleasing, as well as her impact on the household dynamics. However, this is not enough to redeem Fleur’s character or the book as a whole.
Overall, Gatecrasher is a quick, light read. I got through it very quickly, though the story did seem to drag (it seemed like nothing happened for about 100 pages in the middle of the book). The bottom line is that it’s a forgettable book with little to redeem it or to make it worth reading in the first place. For fans of Kinsella’s work, I’d recommend sticking with the books that Wickham writes under that pen name – her efforts as Madeleine Wickham seem to be lackluster and, from what I know, have not been nearly as well received. If you are looking to get into Brit chick lit, I would steer you away from Wickham/Kinsella entirely and point you in the direction of Marian Keyes (especially if the thought of being a shopaholic make you cringe!).