Thursday, April 23, 2009
Review: An Offer You Can't Refuse by Jill Mansell
If all chick lit were this well-written, I would read more of it.
This is definitely one to put on your beach-reads list. Lola is funny and engaging, her friends are totally over the top, and her situation is unique enough to be interesting, but in some ways it is all too familiar. It makes for a charming, funny little romp of a book that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Lola is 17, from a working class family, and head over heels in love with Doug. Doug's family has money, his mother has an attitude, and one day she corners Lola and offers her £10,000 to dump Doug and stay out of his life. Lola is indignant and rushes home to call Doug, who's away at college, and tell him all about it...only to find out that Doug is out with "another boy and two girls...isn't it lovely to see him making new friends already?" and she can see heartbreak in the making.
If that isn't bad enough, Lola catches her beloved stepfather, Alex, packing his bags. Seems that Alex has run up quite a gambling debt -- he's got no way to pay it and he plans to sneak off before anyone discovers his shame.
Lola makes a rash decision and takes the money (talking Doug's mother up to £12,500, while she's at it). She writes a "Dear Doug" letter and runs off to her cousin in Majorca, escaping her own shame. Ten years later she's back in England, managing a bookshop, and through a bizarre and hilarious accident she finds herself back in touch with the last person she ever wanted to see: Doug's mother. Of course, that puts her back in touch with Doug, too, and when Doug overhears a conversation he should not have been listening to, Lola's secret is out and any hoped-for reconciliation with Doug is blown sky high.
Now, for a normal girl, things might end there, but Lola is far from normal. Her life is full of zany characters and they make the rest of the story (we all know where this is going, right?) a real pleasure to read. There's Gabe, Lola's neighbor, who runs off to Australia on a disastrous romantic errand and whose camera-phone snapshot of two film stars snogging catapults him into the exciting world of the papparazzi -- even if he has to study gossip magazines at night to recognize the stars. There's Blythe, Lola's mother, with her brightly mismatched clothes and boring boyrfriend, Malcolm. And Sally -- Doug's little sister -- who becomes Lola's best friend and confidante, when she isn't pretending to be her pregnant lesbian lover.
It's a simple story -- at 17, Lola made a terrible mistake that she would desperately like to correct. The problem is that correcting one mistake might end up hurting other people, and forgiveness is in short supply. What makes this book special is a fun and flighty cast of characters that will keep you laughing, even while you want to smack some sense into them. This should definitely be on your summer reading list.
Now, for those of you who read my teaser last week and wanted to know about Nick? I don't want to spoil you too much, but let's just say Nick is someone from Lola's past. He was explaining why he wasn't there for her when she needed him.
This review also appeared in my column at When Falls the Coliseum. My copy of An Offer You Can't Refuse was an Advance Reader Copy; order yours at Amazon.com.