I read a lot, and I read a variety of genres. Some of my favourite female authors are Kate Atkinson, Sophie Hannah, Audrey Niffenegger, Marian Keyes, Joan Aiken, JK Rowling.
I don’t like the term “chick lit” but it’s an easy shorthand for a certain type of light, popular, comedic, romantic aimed-at-women fiction. Much “chick-lit” is formulaic and predictable – heroine has job troubles and boyfriend troubles, mishaps occur, low point in her life is reached, things get better and she has a happy ending with either the old boyfriend, or a new, better one. It’s lighweight and frothy and fun and doesn’t need too much concentration.The relationship is generally the most important part of the plot – the heroine’s happiness depends on whether or not she gets the man of her dreams at the end of the book. There’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s what you like, and sometimes I like it. If that’s the sort of reading I want to do, I look to Sophie Kinsella or Jenny Colgan (I don’t like Celia Aherne and I really don’t like Kathy Lette).
Sometimes, though, I get a bit sick of the books where the heroine’s relationship status is the be-all and end-all, the books which convey the message that if you’re not in a relationship, your life is incomplete and you can’t ever be truly happy. I read a book called Not Married Not Bothered. The heroine spent the whole book banging on about how happy and fulfilled and complete her life was, despite her spinster status, but surprise surprise, the book finishes with her getting married, which she really wanted all along. *sigh*
So, Stella Newman. I was browsing my local library, looking for something reasonably lightweight, and found Pear Shaped. Read it, liked it, bought her other novel, Left Overs. What I really liked about them is that the plot is built around the heroines’ work lives. Romantic relationships are in there, as important parts of women’s lives, (more so in Pear Shaped than in Left Overs) but they’re not the be-all and end-all. The women aren’t anti-men or anti-relationship, but neither are they willing to sacrifice their self-respect or principles in order to stay in a relationship that isn’t right. They put time and effort into their careers and seem to get at least as much satisfaction and self-worth from their work as from their relationships, and the happy endings are down to the heroines’ efforts and talents and their lives as a whole, rather than just whether or not they have a boyfriend.
If you’re looking for some enjoyable but not too ponderous reading over the festive period, and if you like “chick-lit” but you get fed up of the predictability of the plots, try Stella Newman. I think you might like it.