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The Hube gets her man

I WISHED FOR YOU

Penguin Ireland

€14.99 ***

Grace embodies what has become a typical women's fiction heroine: wacky, disorganised, and full of quirks that are meant to be endearing. She has fallen into her job as a personal stylist, she has been meandering in her relationship, she is patronised by her family, which she tries to laugh off and each escapade becomes exhausting in the extreme to read.

In a word, Grace is hard work, even though she's trying so hard to be likable. Or, more like, because she is trying too hard to be likable.

Huberman has a deft turn with a phrase. Sometimes, though, several plays-on-words and wry remarks are combined in each sentence, so that the wit is almost relentless.

It's a pity there's such a penchant for first-person narration in this genre: Huberman is at her best when the writing is out of Grace's head and she is interacting with other characters.

The happily ever after aspects also adhere to the genre's dictats. Which, in fairness, is why I read chick lit -- any woman who did not get her man, in the end, is not any that I want to read about. It will all work out in the end. How we got there, though, was hard going. Here are some other heroines we've known, and some we've loved ...

BRIDGET JONES'S

DIARY

by Helen Fielding

Picador, 1996

€11.45 **

The standard by which all others are judged? I'm not convinced. This introduced that wacky, hapless, endearing loser to whom, I suppose, we are meant to simultaneously identify with and pity. Her struggles are not very glamorous and she's the sort of friend that moans in all her tweets and Facebook updates, you know the one, the one you unfollow or hide from.

I don't know that our Bridget has aged that well, but she's certainly left her mark on the world.

valley of the dolls

by Jacqueline Susann

Virago, 1966

€11.50 ****

I am willing to hear an argument to the effect that just because something is a classic doesn't necessarily make it good. Just maybe not about this one. This is pure escapist showbiz fantasy. Jennifer, Neely and Anne are just three girls trying to make it on Broadway.

Their loves and losses have entertained generations; their behaviour is not really all that different from that of Ms B Jones, except that there's that gloss of glamour that makes it so much fun. Bit dated though, so one star off.

tara road

by Maeve

Binchy

Orion, 1998

€11.45 ***

Ah, we lost a good 'un when Maeve passed. She described a Dublin and a generation that we all understood, and managed to make D4 homey and glamorous in a way that foreign readers understand, too. This is weirdly frontloaded with backstory, in a way that I've never come across before, except in maybe Russian novels. We don't actually arrive into the present until very far in, which is odd, but the detail is so rich, and the whole experience of revisiting Ria and Marilyn is like cuddling up in a cashmere throw in front of a roaring fire.

before i met you

by Lisa Jewell

Random House,

2012

€14.30 *****

Jewell's work always conveys a feeling of nostalgia, even when set in the present, so this one -- the interlacing of two stories, one set in the interregnum, and the other in the nineties -- really lays it on, in a good way. Betty is the step-granddaughter of the stylish and awesome Arlette and a mysterious legacy leads the former to learn some stunning truths about the latter.

Legacies and secrets and romance? Oh, my! Slight implausibilities are forgiven as the story builds to a satisfying conclusion. And just so you know: the nineties is, in fact, sentiment-fodder, shocking but true.

the parisian's return

by Julia Stagg

Hodder &

Stoughton, 2012

€11.45 *

Stagg lost me when she decided to write the 'voice' of one of her French character like zees, meaning: zhe is not good at ze Eenglish, zo ze writeeng ees like zis. Too bad, because what is not to like about a novel set in the South of France, concerning hotels and local bakeries and cafes and the like?

Quelle dommage.


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