At her best, Sophie Kinsella tells stories featuring characters that we can relate to, even as they get themselves into hilarious, over-the-top predicaments that defy belief. Underneath all the antics, her heroines are sweet (if somewhat ditzy) people who just need to find their way. We know that things will work out in the end for the heroine, and Kinsella usually makes her journey to happiness a hilarious one. Her latest novel, Twenties Girl has some of these characteristics, but the story spends entirely too much time buried in screwball antics and this distracts from the heart of the story a bit, making for a rather average read.
As the book opens, Lara Lington is attending the funeral of her 105-year-old great-aunt, Sadie. Lara barely knew her aunt and since the family did not spend much time with her, the service takes a very awkward turn when they are asked to say a few words about the deceased. However, things start becoming much more animated when Lara starts to see Sadie’s ghost – and Sadie does not want the funeral to go forward! Since Lara is the only one who can see Sadie, the antics required to get Sadie’s message across are far-fetched indeed. Slightly amusing, but the heroine’s continuing lack of common sense takes things way too far.
We quickly learn that Lara is stuck in a rut. Her boyfriend dumped her, and she can’t get over him. And then there’s her job. Lara opened a recruitment business with a flighty friend of hers who has now disappeared overseas, leaving Lara to figure out how to run things all by herself. Not surprisingly, Lara could use a little help. And – that’s what Sadie is there for. On the positive side, the ghost of Sadie as her 23 year-old self is exuberant and determined to make Lara live a little. Her character is wild and outrageous, but she really does help Lara get her life together, meet someone wonderful and, at her best, Sadie can be quite funny. Though humorous, an element of emotion creeps in fairly often that makes the growing bond between the two seem real.
The problem here is that Sadie isn’t always at her best. Readers will quickly tire of the fact that Sadie likes to make her points by yelling or throwing childish tantrums. Given that Sadie also appears quite worldly and sophisticated for her time, the toddler tantrums just don’t fit. Also, while Lara could use some very strong nudging in the beginning, Sadie’s bullying goes on a little too long and becomes repetitious. And then there’s Sadie’s quest.
Sadie is determined to recover a certain necklace and she needs Lara’s help. The many uncomfortable situations Lara stumbles into while seeking the necklace get to be truly funny and seeing the villain of the piece get a comeuppance is richly satisfying. In that respect, the quest for the necklace succeeds – and some of what Lara uncovers about Sadie along the way makes the tale quite interesting. However, Sadie often behaves quite immaturely with regard to the necklace hunt and her behavior grows old quickly. She acts very self-centered, screeches at Lara and just carries on in a childish manner. Her character can be very appealing, but the whining and shrieking made me roll my eyes and hope the scene would be over soon.
Even with these weaknesses, Kinsella tells a basically interesting story and the offbeat romance flowing through the plot made me smile. Lara spends a little too much time hung up on her old boyfriend and her plots to get him back, and some readers may find this frustrating. This is doubly true after Lara meets someone who is obviously a wonderful guy. Still, even with the glitches and minor annoyances in the plot, Twenties Girl is a fairly cute read, if too uneven for me to recommend, especially at hardback book prices.