My total thirst for all things bookish continues, although I recently made a huge departure from hefty history-laced mysteries and decided that, during a very heavy workload period at the ranch (oh how I wish it were a ranch), I required something a bit lighter. I had read more than one Wendy Holden novel before and I appreciated her characters and their dry wit, as well as the writer's taste for proper caricatures of modern celebrity.
So it was that I picked up Filthy Rich in a charity shop recently.
***ABOUT THE AUTHOR***
NOT to be confused with another writer of the same name, one who has produced twenty-five books on "real" issues and people, including one work on abortion that was banned across the entire of Ireland.
This Wendy Holden is of an entirely less substantial style, although still a fine writer in her genre and a best-selling one at that.
Having been favourably compared with Jilly Cooper, she too has a healthily-sized catalogue of work to her name and is prone to cute titles such as "Bad Heir Day" and "Azur Like It". This is unashamed chicklit, but her readable, affable style makes her one of the few writers of that ilk that I can usually happily enjoy.
Having popped to wendyholden.net, to see her twitter feed most recently updated with news that her stolen Chelsea tractor replacements, complete with nine seats, has arrived, I am starting to feel less fond of her. I sincerely hope it is plastered in mud before long, or she and I are going to fall out. Learning that, in her journalist years, she also basically wrote Tara Palmer-Tompkinson's column for her has also lessened my affection. She moved into books with Simply Divine, which features one of her recurring characters and one of the biggest send-ups of celeb culture I've read, and now comfortable in her role as one of the leading names in her genre she lives with her family in what sounds like an infuriatingly gorgeous house in Derbyshire.
You can go off people.
Holden crafts her latest romcom tale in a Midlands village called Allsop. Our cast include Mary, the sweet, pretty and unassuming former London Sothebys secretary who met a not-so-wealthy landowner when sent to assess some artwork and married him within weeks. Her husband, the hopeless but likeable posh boy Monty, continues to live in the family pile - Weston Underwood - even as the money dries up and the house starts to fall down around them. A likeable pair of characters, we meet them ten years after their whirlwind romance when the house is in further disrepair and finances even more so, and the two still are without the child they both want so much.
In the village near the estate, Americans Benny and Beth Ferraro purchase a cottage getaway from their London Monday-to-Friday. As Beth hurries to pack every inch of Cath Kidston produce into her weekend home, she enrages the local thundering lunatic Morag, an eco-obsessive with serious hypocrisy issues. Not just eco issues, but financial, fascist, matriarchal, religious, modernist...if you can in any way shape or form get your undergarments in a knot over something, she will, and proceed to make everyone's life a nightmare as a result. Her hopeless and long-suffering husband Gid is almost as bad, and the main victim in it all is their daughter, who by some remarkable evidence of nature against nurture being a real phenomenon, seems relatively sane. Obviously, the loaded Americans are the perfect target for her wrath.
Morag hasn't seen the last interloper into village life though. About to hit with a serious impact is London hyper-WAG Alexandra, determined that an enforced move to the Midlands because of her husband's transfer will kick start a career that refuses to start and also be her route to lady of the manor status and OK! front covers.
Also new to the village is Catherine. Head Teacher of the local primary, her heartstrings are pulled by the plight of a troublesome boy newly fostered into the village. Hated by every other teacher and most other pupils' parents, it seems impossible that anyone will break through his tough exterior to the obvious issues below.
Someone else with issues is a local solicitor, Philip, still mourning the loss of his wife in an accident a year previously. Throw in a couple of handfuls of other locals to ease the passage of the story and a turn of events that knots them all together and you have Filthy Rich.
Sorry Wendy. It's not your nine-seater juggernaut nor your rural idyll that makes me write this. It's that you've turned out a seriously sub-standard book and I know you can do better.
For me, Filthy Rich is just a bunch of stereotypes gathered together and loosely stitched in place before the "add situation here" instructions are followed to trigger the predictable route to the characters' collective resolution. As far as Holden's WAG characters go, the hair extensions just seem to get longer and the stylist gets more hassle while the florist delivers more flowers than the last one. The convenient singletons get more and more one-dimensional and whilst Mary and Monty and likeable enough, their eventual crisis and subsequent resolution is executed too quickly and without any real depth and human exploration.
Beth and Benny are also lazy characters - she is just a more mature and intelligent version of Alexandra and he is the convenient-to-craft London suit who provides the money. They, too, are granted little by way of explanation towards the end of the book, despite being a catalystic influence to a significant part of the story (which in my opinion occurs too late and thus forces a swift wrapping up of everything before the book goes on too long).
Morag is amusing enough, but she too soon just becomes predictable and boring. Her unhinged obsessiveness with being argumentative and opposed to everything on some swiftly conceived "moral" grounds is at first quite promising but soon it just becomes tiresome and the character's obvious self delusion just isn't amusing enough to carry it.
Philip is likeable enough, but for me there are too many totally flat and hugely stereotypical (90 year old allotment gardeners who YELL A LOT AN' TALK FUNNY INNIT) bit-part players and the whole thing, whilst crafted with Holden's usual likeable and readable tone, is lacking any characters with true dry wit or sharpness or indeed any depth at all. If there had been someone among them with a sharp mind and the odd sarcastic aside, the whole thing might have been lifted, albeit certainly not to the standard of the writer's best work, but considerably more so. A prime candidate would have been Morag's husband, but he is just another of those flat characters which now actually remind me of the ghost in Beetlejuice who was actually about one millimeter thick and disappeared into a tiny crack in the wall.
So I am sorry Wendy. But the more I think about it, the less I find this book to be worthy of the name on the cover. Escapism was offered, yes, but I know that my time could have been spent better re-reading a previous Holden book rather than embarking upon this one.
Available on Kindle, and new through Amazon for £5.99.
WHAT MADE ME READ IT?
I've always been a fan of Wendy Holden and I actually dismissed this book when it first came out after reading a bad review on it on amazon. But this year I decided to give it a ago. After completing Holden's 'Beautiful people' and throughly enjoying it I was left with a appetite for more of Holden's witty story telling.
HOW WOULD I DESCRIBE THIS BOOK?
This is a light-hearted chick-lit novel set in a beautiful country village of Allsop. Holden paints images in your mind of idyllic country cottages with flowers blooming around the doors and rolling hills covered in sunshine. Real escapism. Which is what I like about it.
The book follows the lives of some very entertaining residents. If you like the sound of a bit of country bumpkin life with a bit of footballers wife controversy thrown in you will love this book! If you want a serious read this isn't for you.
This is light hearted entertainment at its best.
WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERS LIKE?
Holden has created a fantastic group of characters.
You have Eco-warrior Morag who you will love to hate. She loves to find fault in everything the other villagers do and seems intent on picking a flight with everyone she meets. She hates new-comers and anyone who doesn't follow her crazy eco-warrior ways.
Beth and Benny
A beautiful, young, friendly american couple who recently moved into the village with their 4x4, convertible sports car and bright pink rose patterned wheely bin. Much to Morags disgust.
Mary and Monty
An aristocratic couple that live in a crumbing old mansion they can't afford to fix. Monty, a wannabe explorer is about to leave Mary alone for 6 months and embark on a dangerous expedition to the middle of no where much to Mary's dismay.
Uber WAG Alexandra
My favorite controversial bimbo, desperate for fame and a marriage proposal from her footballer boyfriend. She sets out to build a footballer wives style mansion, complete with helipad in this rural village. But will she get what she wants?
WHATS THE STORYLINE?
These characters come together in a struggle over power, love, money and allotments, in a fun, witty and addictive read.
My favorite Wendy Holden book since 'Pastures Nouveaux'!
I bought this book from my local supermarket for around £3.63, which I thought would be good value as the book was quite thick.
There isn't much going in the way of plot in this book. The book follows a handful of villagers in the fictional setting of Allsop. These include Mary - whose husband Monty owns a country manor that they can't afford to keep going, Beth - an American who owns a second home in the village and is keen to be an English rose, Morag - a domineering activist who terrifies most of the residents, Catherine - a teacher at the local school, Philip - a solicitor whose wife died in a car crash, and Alexandra - a football WAG who has her sights set on buying property in the village and creating her dream home (read montrosity). These thin plotlines come together around the village allotments as various characters (mainly Morag and Alexandra) begin to clash over ownership.
Most of the characters annoyed me to a certain extent. There just wasn't enough of a plot to maintain any interest in them for the most part. Alexandra, Morag and Beth were probably my "favourite" characters, although that was mostly only because they made things slightly less dull.
For a thick book, this was pretty dull. Towards the end, I was losing the will to live in terms of actually finishing it. I usually keep on reading a good book as I can't put it down but I had no trouble leaving this one alone for several days before I tried to summon up the enthusiasm to pick it up again. I would describe this book as average at best as it did nothing for me at all and I was quite relieved to get to the end and be done with it!
I read the other the review of this book here on Dooyoo with much interest. Whilst I agree that the book is no gripping page turner, I also didn't think it was the worst book I've ever read.
-About Wendy Holden-
According to the blurb at the front of Filthy Rich, Holden is a journalist turned novelist and has 7 novels under her belt, all of which were top ten bestsellers. She is married and has two . . . blah-de-blah (I'm never sure why they tell you this bit but hey-ho!).
-About Wendy Holden's previous books-
To understand what kind of book this is, I think you need to know a bit about her other books. Now, I'm no Wendy Holden expert, but I have taken a couple of her previous books on holiday with me to pass the time whilst I get that all improtant tan. And that is just the kind of books they are - no-brainer, boredom soothing rom-coms about exaggerated people living an exaggerated lifestyle in an exaggerated world. Previous titles of Holden's books include 'Azur Like It' and 'Bad Heir Day' and give you a little idea of what you can expect!
The novel is set in the counrtyside village of Allsopp and follows the lives of five main women:
*Mary* The wife of the handsome and slightly eccentric heir to a stately but crumbling manor.
*Beth* Any American banker's wife who's somewhat misconstrued view of what a country bumpkin should be finds her falling foul of the neighbours.
*Morag* An eco-warrior who's sole ambition in life seems to be to wind up the other people in the village.
*Alexandra* A super WAG on the search for a super WAG mansion in the country and a ring on her finger.
*Catherine* The new head-mistress of the local primary school.
Strangely enough the novel revolves around how these five women meet and compete against each other in the cut-throat world of . . . . allotments. This is the thing that brings them all crashing together, and admittedly it is a tenuous link at best. However, this aside, it makes for a fun read along the lines of a typical 'chick-lit' story.
Holden is never going to win any serious literary awards, but what do you expect from a book that Good Housekeeping calls ' a perfectly pitched piece of playful escapism'?
A challenging read
To be utterly engrossed
A bit of escapism
A book you can pick up and put down at will.
As I'm now a bona fide London commuter (for my sins!), I've been getting through a lot more books than I used to. Unfortunately, as I'm reading in busy, noisy environments (the Northern Line in particular!), I find it really difficult to properly get into an "intelligent" book. I need something I don't have to think too hard about and can dip in and out of. Nothing challenging. This is why I picked this particular tome up - that and a "2 for £8" deal in the supermarket.
It's difficult to pick up great literature in Morrisons, I've found. My expectations were not high when I grabbed this on my way to the till - but at £4, it was cheaper and easier to carry than my usual stack of rubbish magazines.
A quick scan of the blurb introduced me to a host of rich females in a small village; described the book as a "romp" and compared Wendy Holden, the author, to Jilly Cooper. Just the ticket, thought I - it hardly sounded like this would demand my full attention.
I was right. It didn't.
This book is chick-lit trash of the highest order. That I managed to battle through to the end astounds me. The only reason I think I did battle through was that I was expecting to find a plot materialising somewhere along the line, or a massive twist at the end. It didn't. Nothing happened.
The novel is set in the village of Allsop and it's environs, where all of our characters live. Characters include Mary and Monty, who live in the local stately home, which is bordering on derelict; Catherine the primary school headmistress, who is new to the village; Morag the local busybody, who claims to be an environmentalist but just uses it as an excuse to poke her nose into other peoples' business; Alexandra the WAG; Beth and Benny the rich American couple who have a "weekend retreat" in the village; Sam the rebellious child of the village school; and Phillip the Solicitor, who is a young widower.
In all honesty, in the above paragraph, I have put in as much characterisation as Holden manages in the entire novel. This whole sorry book was written so half-heartedly that there is not even a failed attempt at creating empathy for any of the characters - there's just nothing. Everyone is two-dimensional and I found myself reading the whole book just not caring about what happened to any of them. Even down to the names of the characters, everything upon everything is a massive cliché.
One of the main problems with this book is that Holden has tried to bring in too many characters, allowing for too little time dedicated to each one. This doesn't make for a great storytelling device. The only character given any lengthy attention is the intensely annoying and two-dimensional Morag - a completely unbelieveable characterisation of a busybody, who just becomes irritating by about a quarter of the way through the novel.
Another thing I took issue with - the numerous comparisons on the cover to Jilly Cooper and describing this book as a "romp". I have honestly never read a book with less sexual tension bubbling under the surface of the narrative - there is more in Harry Potter, The Little Prince, articles in the Financial Times - this is just terrible. The only sex scene is about one line long, and it's rubbish. I wasn't reading this as a piece of erotica, don't get me wrong, but at least it would've made it more interesting.
The "plot" (if you can call it that) centres around a set of allotments in Allsop, which are split amongst the central characters. Most of the book is centered around how these unlikely and unbelieveable characters discover a massive love of gardening by way of toiling on their allotments after work. Everyone's lonely and they don't sleep with one another. That's it. It's quite a long book.
Needless to say, I won't be recommending this book. Next time I'll be reading the metro on the tube... until I can get to a good bookshop!