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I've read quite a few books by Wendy Holden over the years and have found them a bit hit and miss. Some I've really enjoyed and found amusing, but others were dire and I couldn't wait for them to finish. I bought this particular book as part of a 2 for £7 offer in a supermarket and having found one book that I definitely wanted (a Cathy Kelly), I picked this one up to complete the offer as nothing else in the limited selection took my fancy. After buying it, I came across a fair few bad reviews on Amazon and wondered if it was going to be one of the not-so-good books. Having now finished it, I can confirm that I actually enjoyed the book and can only assume that the bad reviews came from people who were taking the book far too seriously.
The 'gallery girl' of the title is Alice, who is extremely passionate about art and is content to work in a backstreet art gallery selling 'real' art with few customers rather than sell out to work in a Gold Street gallery dealing in 'contemporary art' - much to the confusion of the people around her, especially her doctor boyfriend, David, and her snooty friend, Suki. When said gallery runs into trouble, Alice gets the chance to work for Angelica in Gold Street, amongst the very art that she so despises. Angelica cares nothing for art and wants only to make as much money as possible from artists like Zeb, who makes his fortune from spraying random things gold and passing them off as modern art. Struggling artist Dan lives in the same country village as Zeb and runs the local art class, which is attended by former artist Siobhan, now married to former boyband member Ciaran, who is determined to resurrect his pop past.
While not all of the characters know each other, everyone in the book has some connection to at least one other character, although this can be quite tenuous until the links are made obvious. The main character is Alice, who I liked but didn't feel any strong connection to. One of the downfalls of the book was the jumping around between characters and when I came to write my plot synopsis for the previous paragraph, I realised how complicated the narrative actually is with the connections between them not being all that strong in some cases. The characters who have narratives (albeit third person narratives) are Alice, Zeb, Dan and Siobhan, who incidentally are the nicer characters in the book with Angelica and Ciaran being far less likeable. I got the feeling that Zeb was supposed to be a bit of a bad boy but because I couldn't take his spray painting everything gold seriously, I didn't quite see him in that light and found him a tad ridiculous.
As I've hinted in the previous section, the narrative is third person and flips about between the main characters. I can sometimes feel relatively close to characters within a third person narrative but in this case, while I found most of the characters likeable enough, I didn't feel particularly enamoured with any of them or have any particular cares for how things turned out for them. I'm not sure whether this was the narrative style or the lack of characterisation that made them seem one-dimensional but either way, I can't enjoy a book as much when I really feel 'behind' a character. Narrative aside, the writing style is fluffy and chatty, which for me, helps with the often ludicrous send-up of so-called contemporary art.
I've often seen Wendy Holden's books as being tongue-in-cheek and not to be taken seriously and this is definitely one of those books. The contemporary art of Zeb and Angelica's gallery in general is strongly contrasted with the other side of things (Alice's previous gallery, Dan's portraits and Siobhan's paintings) and it's extremely difficult to take the modern art seriously. If you try to, you'll no doubt hate the book and see it as being completely ridiculous but for me, that seemed to be the whole point. It's a send-up and once you can see it as that, it's quite amusing and enjoyable.