Pastures Nouveaux by Wendy Holden

Originally published in June 2005, on my original 52 Books blog.

My first introduction to chick lit was the much praised Bridget Jones’ Diary, which I frankly hated. IMHO, the movie, for once, was better than the book. It didn’t stop me exploring further, however, and I have read several books belonging to the Genre: good, bad and indifferent. I’ve even reviewed some in this blog.

Warning: SPOILERS ahead

Two very different couples’ lives begin to interweave when they move to a small village in England. They are the practically broke illustrator Rosie and her ill-tempered columnist boyfriend Mark, and filthy rich actress, evil stepmother and bitch queen Samantha and her husband, Guy the financier. Also involved are a noisy family of slackers who live next door to Rosie and Mark’s cottage, a farmer who becomes attracted to Rosie (who seriously considers dumping Mark for him), a reclusive rock star, a former Bond girl and Guy’s teenage daughter, who has every intention of breaking up her father’s marriage to Samantha.

This frothy concoction is a combination of satire, seriousness and slapstick, and tackles, among other things, relationships, pretentiousness, social climbing, and the bleak future facing some farmers. Parts of it read like a slightly more sophisticated print version of a Carry On movie, and many of the supporting characters are broadly drawn stereotypes, while others are more three-dimensional. I only wish I could say that about Rosie’s big love interest, the rock star, but unfortunately he is a cardboard cut-out of the reformed bad boy type, and his infatuation for Rosie is, frankly, unconvincing. If Holden had used up a hundred pages more in giving him a more rounded character and developing the relationship between them and a hundred pages less in showing the reader just what a social-climbing bitch Samantha is, this might have been a good book. As it is, it only just rises above mediocre by virtue of its sparkling humour and the delicious descriptions of Samantha’s decorating mania and her big party.

Rating: A so-so book, recommended for some delicious comic passages. The love story is weak, but if you have fantasies of being swept off your feet by a rock star, by all means go ahead and read it. 2+ stars.

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