Three-star Review, originally posted here on January 13th, 2015.
There was plenty to like about this one, and plenty to not like. In the end, this book was just kinda there for me, completely neutral. It definitely felt like Fielding was testing out her noveling legs with this one, and the growing pains of this book eventually lead to the awesomeness of Bridget Jones. Some of my favorite elements of this book made it into Bridget Jones as well, such as the arrogant charming boyfriend clashing with the practical smart potential boyfriend, the completely relatable female protagonist, and the description of frustrations that professional women face daily. I also appreciated the juxtaposition that Fielding pulled off in switching between life in a refugee camp with its horrors and bureaucracies, life amongst celebrities with their vanity and disconnection from the real word, and then the very real and startling results when the two conflicting worlds finally clash.
But, sadly, I must admit that I was also quite bored by large sections of the book, including scenes that should have been the most compelling. Our protagonist goes on an action-adventure in the middle of the book that somehow, despite explosions and adventure and romance, seemed to drag so badly that I found myself just skimming in an attempt to get through it all. In scenes such as this, Fielding seemed to rely on simple play-by-plays of the plot’s occurrences, making the otherwise engaging writing suddenly turn into what felt like a dry non-fiction. It made me upset with myself when I realized that I was much more interested in Rosie’s stupid girly crush on a celebrity than I was in her heroic adventure in Africa, but I think this was because the human element that Fielding usually conveys so well was suddenly missing from these more exotic scenes. When Rosie gets back into her camp and interacts with the refugees and aid workers there, things get a bit better. My other gripe is that I also found myself confusing the celebrities a bit, as there are many, many listed and to me it wasn’t clear which ones we were supposed to actually remember. (Similarly, I also got the various aid agency middle-manager types confused, but this didn’t really bother me since I think that added to the feeling of hopelessness that Rosie felt in her predicament.)
So overall this worked pretty well for me as a plane/beach read that I could knock out in a couple days, with potential here and there, but also with uneven storytelling that kept me from getting as engrossed as I would have wanted.