Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sushi for Beginners by Marian Keyes

Reviewed by Melissa Paul

Summary: For Ashling Kennedy, the new job she lands at start-up Irish fashion magazine Colleen is a dream come true. For Lisa Edwards, a high-maintenance London editor expecting a promotion to New York, her appointment as editor-in-chief of Colleen is a slap in the face, the only consolation being her rumpled-but-handsome new boss, Jack Devine. Furious at being passed up for a job at Manhattan magazine, Lisa vows to make Colleen the envy of the fashion industry, even if it kills her. She drives her Dublin staff to exhaustion, and Colleen becomes a smashing success. But after a particularly lusty meeting with her much-maligned long-distance London boyfriend, she wonders if the move and the single-minded career obsession have been worth it. Meanwhile, Ashling is betrayed by her boyfriend and her best friend Clodagh, whose bourgeois domesticity she's long envied. Ashling realizes that she has to let go of her cheerful "Miss Fix-It" demeanor and go after what she wants. Lisa is chagrined and Ashling is shocked to learn that Jack may actually fancy Ashling, but one "sushi for beginners" dinner has her convinced. British bestseller Keyes's latest confection (after Watermelon) makes such a painfully brittle start the reader nearly despairs of the cardboard cutout characters, but slowly they begin to breathe and morph into charmers. Keyes's considerable following on these shores will declare this a delight.

My Review: “Sushi for Beginners” by Marian Keyes has absolutely nothing to do with sushi, except that one of the characters eats it. Once. Instead of sushi, what you get is typical chick-lit.

The quirky characters all have British accents (or worse- Irish) and speak with the vernacular that has apparently permeated the entire genre whereby everything is either “brilliant” or “pants”. Of course there is the dependable cast – the bitch work peeps at the usually glamorish job at the newspaper, magazine, television station, etc., the ex-boyfriend, the mostly always drunk friend who just loves to party and sleep with everyone, the more serious and generally best looking friend as well as a guy pal who is more often than not, homosexual. Add to that the disappointing parents, the “wrong” guy who our protagonist is usually involved with and then the “right” guy who is dependably successful, good looking and for some unfathomable reason, inexplicably drawn to our main character; generally a plain, slightly fat and extremely insecure young woman who can be counted on to say or do foolish things, like spill on herself and run her hose and her mouth at inopportune moments. She is usually oblivious to the “right” guy because she is so focused on the “wrong” guy until “Right” is able to rescue her at the end and they go off together to live happily ever after in his tidy uptown loft.

This “novel” didn’t vary much from the usual format, except that it was longer and less entertaining the “Shopaholic” or “Bridget Jones” variety. Certainly the expectations are low for substance and character development with chick lit., however my anticipation was that this would be a quick, mindless read filled with shenanigans of a quirky cast. Even this criterion was not met.

In the exhaustive 531 pages, the characters are only marginally developed, even to chick lit. standards. In fact, it takes the reader a while to figure out if the story is about Lisa or Ashling. Although ultimately it is clear that Ashling is our heroine and Lisa (one of the bitchy work peeps) should be pitied because the priorities in her life are so clearly out of whack. Luckily they both get to have their happily ever-afters in the end, when it (finally!) comes around. Most of the book is filled with going to pubs, going to work, what everyone is wearing (or rather who – as in which designer but not in any sort of, informed “Devil Wears Prada” way), and those annoying “he looked at her and she looked at him and they had a moment” moments. I wanted to scream at the characters to just get on with it already.

Finally Ashling gets some empowerment and ends up with “Right” in the end, even though Lisa had the hots for him in the beginning and lots of little moments with him where his pupils dilate. There was quite a lot of pupil dilation and personal grooming going on in this book, but not much else.

“Sushi for Beginners” sounds interesting enough for a title but other than a brainless beach read or a way to kill time while waiting for an airplane, there is little to be said in the way of any sort of redeeming quality. In fact, I actually feel dumber for having read it. Even as chick lit goes, this one falls flat.

My Rating: 1 Star

If I had to sum this book up in one sentence it would be: If books are like sushi, this one would be an avocado roll, hold the wasabi, soy and ginger - not much interesting or different going on here.


MindySue said...

I think I have this one...and now I don't have to waste my time reading it and can sell it to Encore and buy MORE books. Yippee. Thanks for the time-saver. Nice review Melissa, I hope we see you here "guesting" more often.

MindySue said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Wow what a terrible review. Keyes is Irish, not British. Plus, pretty offensive remark about Irish accents (though in fairness, I say the same about US accents). Anyway, with a bit of luck this blog is no longer active.

MindySue said...

Thanks for your feedback and the correction, Anonymous. This review is by one of our guest reviews and I actually think she did a bang up job but we welcome your opinion. You are out of luck as far as site activity goes, though. We've been around and active since 2008.


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