Disclaimer: This review includes spoilers to plotlines in later books I have marked these sections of the review with spoilers in bold.
Confessions of a Shopaholic is one of my favourites “guilty reads”. Admittedly I enjoy reading romantic comedy books. Sometimes I just want a nice easy read, which this genre offers. The Shopaholic books are light-hearted and fun. Given recent affairs, I feel light-hearted reads are a necessity. Sophie Kinsella has received mixed reviews over the years, but it has not deterred the success of Confessions of a Shopaholic. It has a strong following which allowed an entire book series. There is a reason for its popularity.
Unfortunately, the book has become criminally underrated due to the disastrous movie adaption of the same name. I strongly recommend anyone to ignore the movie adaption and read the book instead. Not only does the movie change the setting of the story, but it also merges sequel books into a mess more chaotic than Rebecca Bloomwood’s mind.
Whilst the books are not literary masterpieces Sophie Kinsella offers good dialogue and pacing. Each book manages to be extremely clever and humorous. I have read at least five of the books in the series. Personally, I found the story fitted a trilogy format better and found the subsequent books were consistent fillers (enjoyable but forgettable). For this purpose, I will only focus on the first three books in the series.
The first book Confessions of a Shopaholic introduces Rebecca Bloomwood, who lives in London with her friend Suze. Despite being a resourceful and intelligent woman Rebecca cannot help but compulsively spend and struggles to get to grips with her ever-growing debt. When confronted about her addiction Rebecca tends to lie, which ends disastrously for her. In fact, each time Rebecca tells a lie it always comes back to bite her in the arse. Despite being a compulsive liar she attempts to rectify her mistakes. This ranges from trying to save, trying to work with Finish finance offices, and trying to find a rich man to bail her out (to which she learns she has principles). Despite her flaws, Rebecca is a kind-hearted woman who means well. She is supportive of her friends, attentive to her family and holds morals.
I actually re-read this series recently and was struck by how relatable some of the situations were. A great example is when Rebecca attempts to save money by cooking at home and ultimately spends more money on cooking appliances and ingredients than what the original takeaway she was planning on getting would have cost her. Another relatable moment is when she realises how much knowledge she has on finance, due to her years of exposure in her unengaging job. Whilst the book ticks most of the cliches of chick-lit, (romantic love interest, fashion, evil work colleague, bad dates) it does offer a nail-biting tension that forces you to read on.
What makes these books enjoyable is the ability Becky has to justify every purchase she makes sometimes they seem almost cute. One particular scene that sticks to mind is when she buys an entire array of items in a museum shop for Christmas in the midst of July. Her shopaholic problems aside, she’s a kind and big-hearted person.
The book series evokes a Bridget Jones-style vibe whilst branching out into its own territory. When you see the lies backfiring on poor Rebecca you actually realise there is no malice in her deceptions, she simply wishes to sound more impressive. I can attest to knowing someone similar to Rebecca Bloomwood who had a tendency to stretch the truth. It took reading this book series to understand the strain it must take on their psyche. Whilst the first book ends with Rebecca finding her footing in her career and love life you can see she still has a long way to go before she can manage her finances.
Spoilers: In the sequel book, Shopaholic Takes Manhattan, the stakes get higher when we see Rebecca in a new environment with a host of new shops. I personally loved the sequel and found I was unable to put it down. We see Rebecca’s compulsive lying taking on new boundaries as she tries to fit into the high-society of New York. In true New York fashion, everything is bigger, including the price tags and the amount of maxed credit cards. One might assume her newfound relationship with Luke would be an automatic save but we see Rebecca really hit rock bottom and learning from her mistakes. By the end of this book, every single lie and purchase become her undoing.
Spoilers: The third book, Shopaholic Ties the Knot, follows the engagement of Rebecca and Luke as they plan for their wedding. However, amidst wedding preparations with her mother and her soon to be mother-in-law, Rebecca ends up with two weddings being planned. Becky’s inability to say no to the glamour of the New York’s Plaza and her longing to not upset her mother play out throughout most the book. It becomes increasingly more difficult for her to say no to either party as both sides have begun preparations. Whilst this drags on for a majority of the story I liked this new spin on the shopaholic storyline.
Spoilers: Eventually, Rebecca follows her heart deciding to follow her mother’s desire to host a humble wedding in her garden. Unfortunately, when Becky tries to withdraw from the wedding organised in New York, she faces a frightening wedding planner, who can insist she pay a penalty of a hundred thousand dollars. I remember laughing out loud when the wedding planner reveals she has strict lawyers who can track down brides who trie to run away from the costs. What made the scene all the more enjoyable is how the wedding planner begins the book as loveable American, and she suddenly turns into a villainous businesswoman. I could visualise this happening especially when Becky begins likening her to a movie villain.
I have read the following books from Shopaholic Ties the Knot, but as mentioned before I found the third book really tied everything together making it read like a conclusion. I would recommend the Shopaholic book series as a lockdown read. There is certainly something relatable in the author’s message about trying to avoid purchasing too many items. I cannot help but imagine Rebecca Bloomwood would be sat in a living room surrounded by toilet rolls and canned fruit. Hopefully, she has learned her lesson and Luke is keeping her from panic buying.