A Girl's Best Friend
Elizabeth Young
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Buy *A Girl's Best Friend* online

A Girl's Best Friend

Elizabeth Young
308 pages
August 2003
rated 3 of 5 possible stars

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I am not the target audience for A Girl's Best Friend, the third novel by British author Elizabeth Young (her first two are A Promising Man (And About Time, Too) and Asking For Trouble). This is "chick lit," i.e. written for young women, presumably those particularly interested in hot romance, sex, parties, and fashion. The definition of this fairly newly-termed genre is books by women focusing on young, often eccentric female protagonists. Think Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding. Although Young's novel did hold my interest moderately well -- and I appreciate a happy ending every once in a while -- the perfect reader would be in her 20s or 30s and know contemporary British slang.

The storyline follows protagonist Izzy through a couple of relationships and their demise, through a new job, through a potential disaster, and through various parties. It devotes quite a lot of attention to her love of her "best friend." This 30-something single-but-hunting-hard woman has lots of trouble with men but, by story's end, finally seems to have come to some sort of peace with a heroic and kind veterinarian.

Two things are somewhat disconcerting about this book. The first is not the author's fault. "A Girl's Best Friend," as we all know, is her dog. Henry, a mutt who is extremely lovable, is no exception -- he is Izzy's constant companion and her only steady bedmate. However, the repeated descriptions of him and comments on his size bear no resemblance to the dog on the cover, a large-headed West Highland white terrier.

Two. As the author is English, she probably wrote this novel with her fellow countrywomen in mind. Most English books translate quite easily into Americanese. Yet although I have visited England on numerous occasions, I found Young's book almost required the help of an American/British dictionary. Guess I just don't watch enough Austin Powers. Thank goodness, I have a good friend of Welsh descent to whom I placed many calls. Although most of the slang words are fairly clear in context, not all are. Here are a few samples that tripped me up: "I'm a dab hand" (very skillful at something); " he'd slag her off" (abuse her verbally); "snogging"( necking); a "prat" (a dork); and "never quite Oxbridge material" (i.e., Ivy League, a combination of Oxford and Cambridge Universities).

The use of so much slang does not endear characters to me, but Henry was certainly most endearing and one of the most developed characters. As Young writes, one thing in dogs' favor is that "They [dogs] never brag about their ex's stunning cleavage."

A Girl's Best Friend contains no real growth of any character, no great revelations, and no complex mysteries. Still, it is an amusing and quick read. A few good deeds and twists of fate occur, but the focus is on fun, flirting and finding a marriage partner. Although summer is over, this would make a perfect beach or vacation book. It might also translate well into a sitcom.

© 2003 by Deborah Straw for Curled Up With a Good Book

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