Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Plotting for Beginners [Review]

Title: Plotting for Beginners

Author(s): Sue Hepworth (her blog), Jane Linfoot

Copyright/Publication: 2006, Snowbooks, London, ISBN: 1-905005-12-1

Length: 345 pages

Genre: contemporary fiction

Summary: Sally is a woman who deserves a better time of it; she's got a spouse, a college-age son, and a brother, each of whom seems to be just a tad off kilter. The spouse is off emulating Thoreau in a cabin in Colorado. The brother is in the midst of a poorly handled divorce and has moved in with Sally. The son is somewhat vague as to his general direction. Meanwhile, Sally is muddling through menopause and the difficulties of getting her career up and moving again. Fortunately, Sally has good friends, Kate, supportive of Sally's hope of becoming a paid freelance writer, and madcap Wendy. The men in Sally's life (oh, I forgot to mention Iain) are a diverse and exasperating lot as are the editors who accept Sally's pieces, building up her belief in her writing skill and then casually dashing it. It's just too unfair (but very, very true to life).

This is a delightfully humorous book, told through a series of diary entries, letters, and email exchanges. Sally has to navigate the demands of family and friends while pushing herself to achieve her own goals. It's not easy but, for the reader, it's fun. Characterization is solid and the author's blog even supplies photos of the locations for specific incidents in the book.

Extract: see Sally's own blog entries for a flavor of the writing.

Also Relevant: Lisa (who is amazingly generous with her giveaways ) claims I won this one fair and square. I suspect her of a mixture of kindness and briskness, because she had moved ahead to her next giveaway before I had time to tell her thank you for sending me this one (with a bonus book in the package). Thank you, Benevolent Bluestalking!

As it happens, I enjoy epistolary novels so Plotting for Beginners was the best possible win for me. Even more happily, Sally was the right heroine for me -- competent and possessed of a self-deprecating humor. Finding good heroines that reflect my particular demographic is not that easy; most of the current crop suffer from being at least a decade younger and perhaps twenty-five pounds lighter (say, a size six rather than a ten or fourteen). The humor is gentle and never quite over the top. I was able to read some of the humorous bits of this out loud to my son who was patiently tolerant initially but appreciated the wit that Hepworth and Linfoot deliver.