05 December 2011

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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