The name Sophie Kinsella is immediately recognizable as the author of the hugely successful Shopaholic chick lit series. How about the name Madeleine Wickham? No? Well, they're one and the same.
The Tennis Party, originally published in 1995, was Wickham's first book. It has been re-released in North America as 40 Love.
Four couples gather for a weekend tennis party. - but the host believes it should be a tournament instead. And although tennis is ostensibly the reason for being there, each of the couples have their own reasons and agendas for the weekend. With a little too much sun and a lot of too much drink, the social facade begins to slip. Quite a bit.
I chose to listen to 40 Love rather than read it. I don't think I would have enjoyed the book near as much in written form. The reader was award winner Katherine Kellgren - one of the best around. Her accents are spot on, reflecting every character's personality and nuances. Each character sprang to life and immediately formed a picture in my mind. Her intonation and inflection give the story life and verve. It is such a treat to listen to her narrate.
Having read all of the Shopaholic series, I was expecting more of the same. And yes, in a way it's there - it is chick lit for sure. There are the 'lighter' characters such as the 'innocent' couple Annie and Stephen. And I found the children delightful. But it is the darker characters that really gave me pause. I enjoyed the tale up until the last few chapters. It is a bit of a farce, poking fun at the 'noveau riche' and the desire to have more, more, more. But, the character of Charles was just plain cruel and truly vicious. I was actually quite shocked by the words Wickham put in his mouth and the violence he displayed. Kellgren's reading intensified the effect. I was disappointed with the direction taken with this character and his wife's reaction and subsequent (non) action. It rather spoiled what had been a good listen up to that point. I guess I just associate chick lit with a feel good read.
Wickham/Kinsella has definitely improved since this original effort.
Listen to an excerpt of 40 Love. Or read an excerpt.