It’s been almost three years since the last ‘Shopaholic’ novel hit the bookstores and Becky Brandon (nee Bloomwood) was unleashed upon a series of high streets and the designer stores that line them. The latest offering from prolific writer Sophie Kinsella follows Becky – now mum to a toddler daughter who is the mini shopaholic of the book’s title – as she becomes embroiled in a series of typical mishaps and misfortunes, which are only partly due to her renown shopping addiction.
Stuck living with her parents due to some serious bad luck that has seen five house purchases fall through, Becky is on a one-woman mission to stage and host a surprise birthday party for her work-obsessed husband, Luke. It’s a task that on paper shouldn’t be too arduous, especially as Luke ordinarily has little to no interest in celebrating his birthday. In reality, Becky’s path to success is fraught with numerous stumbling blocks that would make a lesser woman abandon the venture in haste. This is magnified by Becky’s attempt to pull this off as the society event of the year on an excruciatingly tight budget (you can almost feel Becky’s pain when she has to resort to English sparkling wine to cater her guests). As Becky hurtles towards Luke’s birthday and the day of the big party, she becomes embroiled with a shadowy figure from the past and family relationships are put under strain.
Although the title implies that the book is about Becky’s daughter, Minnie, who was first introduced to loyal readers in Kinsella’s previous novel, Shopaholic and Baby, the truth is that Minnie is almost more of a background character, albeit a strong one around whom several threads of the story are hung. At the tender age of two, Minnie is the epitome of a toddler-gone-wild. She is a dab hand at ordering designer togs on the Internet and like most two year olds, she likes to ascertain what possessions belong to her (which is mostly everything she sets her eyes on). It is Minnie’s presence that adds weight to certain sub-plots and story developments as Becky ricochets through the toils and travails of motherhood, many of which are all too familiar.
Kinsella injects a fictional interpretation on current events and trends, the main of which is the recession and the clashing themes of ‘make do and mend’ and ‘keep calm and carry on’. This makes the reader more able to relate to some of the reasons behind some of Becky’s more hare-brained scrapes. Becky’s ‘interesting’ – if just a little bit self-serving – approach towards teaching her young daughter the finer points of personal finance will surely be remembered as a Bloomwood classic.
Mini Shopaholic is a riotous and feel-good read and another stellar addition to the Shopaholic franchise. There are plenty of laugh-out loud moments interspersed with snips of dialogue that will have you quietly snorting away. This is especially true of scenes involving the delightful and determined Minnie, clad in her own Junior D&G suede boots, who is fast following in her mother’s footsteps.
As always, Kinsella stays true to Becky’s fashion aficionado roots as the names of designers and descriptions of key seasonal pieces are peppered throughout the text. If you are new to the Shopaholic series, Kinsella provides sufficient but subtle background in this book to get you slap bang up to speed on the in’s and out’s of Becky’s world.
Sophie Kinsella is an engaging and witty writer and with Becky Brandon, she has created a hugely lovable heroine who you root for and whom you are genuinely interested in which no doubt accounts for the success of the books as they span pivotal changes in Becky’s life. This is reinforced with a narrative that is stamped with Becky’s chatty and conversational tone. Ultimately, this is chick-lit at it’s best; with memorable characters, entertaining scenes, the undercurrent of romance and a hint of the outlandish – a perfectly frivolous and frothy read.
By Devona Anidi
Mini Shopoholic, £8.99 from Amazon. To buy now, click here.