Putting it out there, I love Maggie Alderson and I was overjoyed when I found out that she was releasing a new book (her first in about three years – rejoice!). So if this review is a tad bit biased, at least you know now. And yes, that does mean you should still definitely go out and buy all of her books immediately.
Set between London and countryside England (we’re already off to a great start!) Secret Keeping for Beginners tells the intertwining stories of three adult sisters and their mother. While each on the surface appears to have a great life, on closer inspection the reality is far more, well, realistic. Rachel is a divorced mother of two, but she’s also got a great career in PR and frequently jets off to European countries every second country. Tessa’s a muralist who lives in the country with her husband and three kids, and thanks to her husband’s reality TV show, she doesn’t have to worry about money in the slightest. Natasha’s a beautiful and successful career woman and even their mum, Joy, doesn’t seem to have a worry in the world. Except of course, they all do. Money troubles, mysterious letters and relationship secrets are all a part of the plot of Secret Keeping for Beginners – plus a delicious, flirty romance, like all good Maggie Alderson books (i.e. all of them).
Reading a Maggie Alderson book, I swear, is like slipping into a bubble bath after a long day of bleurgh. Yes, her novels are light and fluffy and the epitome of chick lit, but they are also damn wonderful. Just because she is writing about romance and domestic issues doesn’t mean that her writing isn’t still witty, well-structured and, essentially, entertaining. Will she win any awards with Secret Keeping For Beginners? No. But you will still manage to polish it off in the space of a weekend.
The protagonists in Secret Keeping for Beginners are beautiful, successful and lead lives that are appear glamorous. In all of Alderson’s novels, her characters have jobs that just seem so much more FUN than everyday jobs – interior designer, fashion journalist, muralist, beauty editor etc. etc. etc. Jobs that are probably just as successful as a regular, boring job, but can be presented in a way that is enviable and fun. Her latest novel is no exception to this rule that she’s created. Plus, throw into the mix descriptions of lovely clothes, beautiful country houses (seriously, I’m pretty sure Maggie Alderson is the reason why I want to move to London and spend my weekends in an English cottage) and handsome men and you have the thinking crumpet’s equivalent of escapism.
Not that I’m saying Secret Keeping for Beginners is perfect. It isn’t. There are certain aspects of the novel that just wouldn’t work in real life, like the way that Simon confides in Joy, despite meeting her only two times. And the problems that each of the women face are inexplicably solved in the space of a page, and only reinforce that these characters are dealing with very middle class issues. Prime example? One protagonist’s solution to her money woes is to sell her London house and instead move into a large London apartment. I mean, guys, that’s a really hard decision that I’m sure all of us worry about having to make someday. Right?
But, so what? I loved this book because it was exactly what I wanted it to be: classy, entertaining, smart chick lit. Maggie Alderson is a internationally best-selling author who has also been the editor of four magazines, amongst a whole lot more, and it shows. You don’t have to lose any brain cells in the process of reading Secret Keeping for Beginners but you’re also not going to be straining too many either. So seriously, buy this book, pour yourself a bath and crack open the chocolate. Your Friday night is now sorted. You’re welcome.
Have you read Secret Keeping for Beginners? Are you a fan of Maggie Alderson books? Do you read chick lit? Let me know!