Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella (Dial Press, 2019)

On a road trip to Florida in 2000, my husband asked me what I was reading that was causing me to laugh out loud. “I am reading a new book by Sophie Kinsella called Confessions of a Shopaholic,” I replied. “Shauna gave it to me to read.” My 14-year-old daughter already had discerning taste in literature and I took suggestions for reading from her often.

“Well, what’s so funny?” Tom asked.

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And, I began to read the scene where Becky Bloomwood, the main character, a wannabe fashionista, is in love with a pair of tiger print jeans that are for sale in the shop in which she works. To prevent any customer from discovering them before the end of her shift, Becky hides them, which ends up causing confusion and hilarity in the shop. The scene is so hysterical that after I shared it, my husband had me read the rest of the book aloud until we got our first free orange juice for crossing the Georgia border into Florida. 

Now to me, this anecdote says something about Sophie Kinsella’s talent in writing humor that has great appeal, even to men, who are not her target audience. Becky appears in 9 more Shopaholic books, all of which are fun to read because Becky represents “every woman.” Becky is us! Is there a woman out there who hasn’t sneaked in a package or two so that her partner doesn’t know? Is there a woman who hasn’t ordered more of an item than she really needed because it is such a great bargain?  Why not buy one for this year, and then one to put away for next year? And who of us hasn’t dashed out to the mailbox to intercept the Visa bill before the husband sees it?

By the time Kinsella got to Shopaholic to the Rescue in 2016, her humor and story line seem to have slipped. The gags were tired and the plot was not funny, and for the first time I was disappointed in the antics of the modern day Lucille Ricardo, Becky Brandon nee’ Bloomwood. I thought that perhaps Kinsella had given up on Becky. . .

Happily, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Kinsella writes at the end of the new novel, “I’d like to thank my wonderful readers---in particular all those who have inquired so kindly after Becky. Your enthusiasm and love were a massive inspiration in writing this book.” I believe that enthusiasm of which Kinsella speaks is the inspiration that led to her writing Christmas Shopaholic because this book does seem to be as humorous as the early Shopaholic series was.

Becky is looking forward to her mother’s annual Christmas fete’. However, Mrs. Brandon chooses to drop a bomb on Becky; this year Luke and Becky will host Thanksgiving as the Brandon parents are moving to a hip new community called Shoreditch, located just north of Liverpool Street, which is not large enough to handle the crowd.

“But, Mum,” Becky argues, “you can’t move to Shoreditch!”

“Why not? Mum looks affronted.

“Because Shoreditch is for young people! It’s where hipsters come from! It’s all craft beer and sourdough bread . . . It’s not . . . you!”

Despite her protestations, since Mum has invited her best friend, Janice and her husband, Martin, as well as Becky’s sister, Jess, and her husband, among others, Becky simply cannot refuse.  And once she begins planning (and shopping for the festivities), Becky rises to the occasion, taking advantage of her credit cards. She purchases family Christmas aprons, mince pie display stand, smoked salmon (30 pounds of it), an inflatable mistletoe wreath, and five Christmas trees, including an eco one for her sister, Jess. However, she has not purchased a single thing on her actual list.

A myriad of challenges arise during the planning. For instance, Jess, Becky’s inflexible sister, is vegan, as well as an avid conservationist, who requests a vegan turkey be served at Christmas dinner. Becky’s little girl, Minnie, is asking for a hamper, which although an odd request, Becky is happy to buy for her. The biggest challenge is that Luke doesn’t mind if he gets boring old aftershave again this year, but Becky is determined to find something exclusive and special for him. And she finds it all right, an antique, leather portmanteau, which is being auctioned off in an exclusive men only billiard club. What to do? What to do? Leave it to Becky to come up with an innovative plan to score the gift, that is, if the scheme works.

Becky never gives up on an idea once she’s had one. She seems flighty and funny, but the best thing about Becky is that she has a good heart. She means well, and she only wants to make other people happy. Somehow what seem to be major gaffes turn out to be colossal successes in Becky’s world. 

After the three-year hiatus of Becky Brandon nee’ Bloomwood (as Becky signs all of her many correspondences) the brilliant Becky has returned with her previous flair for making life an adventure. Thanks to Sophie Kinsella for restoring Becky, her quirky family and friends, to her devoted readers.