Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Five Things I Hate About Chicklit

chickDon’t be fooled by the title.  I love chicklit.  Some of my favourite fiction authors are of this genre.  Well, I do suspect that some of them have been crammed into it with a crowbar: it’s always been a mystery to me why Marian Keyes and Freya North, who both tend to address dark and difficult themes,* should be sold with pretty pastel covers.  Some of them, though, are very much in line with the chicklit mission statement, such as I imagine it.  Genuinely fun, enjoyable to read, not scared of addressing a real issue or two and yet ultimately optimistic; the kind of book you can safely pick up in the knowledge that the heroine is going to be just fine and all the loose ends will be tied up.  The kind of book authors like Katie Fforde, Jill Mansell and Kate Lace specialise in producing.  Happy stories. And I don’t believe for a moment that writing that kind of story is in any way an inferior exercise.  People need happy stories, and writing one well requires a great deal of skill.  In other words, it’s hard to write an easy read.

So yes, I do love chicklit.  I am even secretly a little bit grateful for the evil marketing conspiracy that ensures these books are easy to identify.  One of the great pleasures in life, for me, is to nip into WH Smith before a train journey and pick out a fat shiny colourful volume.  A whole book to read as I travel, with no other demands on my time and no worries that I’m going to arrive at my destination with elevated blood pressure or sudden-onset depression.

Well… in an ideal world.  In an ideal world, every book I picked out would be as joyful and uncomplicated and soothing as Restoring Grace.  However, this is not an ideal world.  And in this world, the act of picking out a chicklit novel is fraught with hazards (at least for me).  Because for all I love about the genre, certain odious themes keep cropping up and spoiling my reading pleasure.  For the sake of brevity I managed to streamline them all into five short bullet points: the five things I consistently, and heartily, hate about chicklit.

1.  Sex

Now, I have no moral or aesthetic issues with sex scenes in literature.  But, let’s be realistic here, the majority of sex scenes are crap.  It’s no accident there’s an annual prize.

Aside from the fabulous Jilly Cooper – her work may pre-date the chicklit label by some time, but by god, she should be worshipped by all exponents of the genre – very, very few chicklit authors write sex well.  Freya North manages it; so does Marian Keyes.  But generally, sex -and especially graphic sex – is not something chicklit does well.  In fact, many of the books I have most enjoyed in the genre have no sex scenes at all.  Kate Lace’s The Trophy Girl is just one example of a novel that conveys all the excitement of a developing romance without even the whisper of a sex scene. No clunky descriptions, no awkward nomenclature. (I mean, what can you call the various… parts that doesn’t classify as clinical, cheesy or sleazy?)  If only more authors would realise that it’s not old-fashioned to close the bedroom door.

2.  Stereotypes

Now, I would be the first to admit that the issue of class is all-pervasive.  But it doesn’t mean that I’m going to laugh at your hilaaaaarious portrayal of a weak-chinned aristocrat, stodgy working class person, vulgar nouveau riche or strident, purple haired ecowarrior.  Especially if you recycle that stereotype in more than one novel.  I’m looking at you, Ms. Wendy Holden.

Even setting aside the class issue (which is oh so British), it seems that on both sides of the pond the cookie-cutter nature of chicklit marketing has spread and festered and infected vast swathes of the writing and characterisation of said genre.  Do we really need more dumb blondes, studious brunettes, virtuous poor girls, feisty forty-somethings, fabulous gay men, nagging mothers, laddish blokes, blokish lads, bored housewives or amoral aspiring actresses?  This chick votes no.  The old phrase about a cliche being a cliche because it is true can excuse only so much.

Closely related to:

3. Snobbery

Whether it’s class snobbery, lifestyle snobbery, brand snobbery or aesthetic snobbery, it’s all equally revolting and, unfortunately, all too common in chicklit.

Out of all of these snobberies – all of them irritating in their own way – lifestyle snobbery is perhaps the most common form.  Since this is a short piece I will isolate one particular strand here: the issue of children (say: chiiiiiiiiiildrennnnnn).  I once read three chicklit novels in one weekend (I had to take a lot of trains), all of which touched on the old trope of the selfish childless woman to varying degrees.  By far the worst offender was Jane Green’s Second Chance, which contained precisely one happily single, childless character… who of course had to have a one night stand, conveniently forget all contraception, end up pregnant and then be forced, by a dramatic turn of events, to accept her destiny as a mother.  Not that such things don’t happen in real life.  But in the context of a novel where the state of motherhood seemed to be prized above all else, it felt contrived; more than contrived, in fact.

I have no objection to motherhood, or the desire for motherhood, being a central theme; after all, it is a very real experience and a defining factor in many women’s lives.  Again, it’s all about how it’s done.  Jill Mansell’s novels very frequently deal with family themes, and her portrayal of motherhood – planned and unplanned – is overwhelmingly positive… but there is no judgment implicit in her stories.  I feel that this is the key thing.  This, for me, is what distinguishes natural human bias from snobbery; I have endless patience for the former, but the latter makes me fume.

Other forms of lifestyle snobbery include the corresponding assumption that motherhood always makes you drab and uninteresting and/or crazy and obsessed; the supposed supremacy of New York/London life over the rest of the humble planet; constant harping on body image and personal maintenance (seriously, who in their right mind waxes their nose hair?); fashion snobbery (which is the sole basis for more novels than it ought to be); sexual snobbery (too much? too little? not up with the latest trends?); and that peculiarly chicklittish snobbery that dictates that any girl who is deemed to be plump, dowdy, shy, unfashionable, in need of a haircut or generally slightly odd must be dragged out of her shell and damn well MADE TO CONFORM.  (I am sorry to say that one of my favourite authors let me down with this recently: Katie Fforde, who usually specialises in creating charmingly odd characters, dedicated far too much of Wedding Season to a similar transformation sequence complete with extended product placement for Colour Me Beautiful [see: Shopping].)

4.  Slapstick

Unfortunately this section does not deal with slapstick in the Charlie Chaplin/Buster Keaton/Pierre Richard sense of the word.  It deals with that inexplicable tendency of chicklit authors to make their heroines into outright idiots, who bluster and blunder and stumble their way through life, bouncing from cringeworthy moment to cringeworthy moment, until some sensible man sets them right.  It’s the reason I never really enjoyed Bridget Jones.  It’s the reason I outright cannot read Catherine Alliott.  It’s the reason I hated The Devil Wears Prada.  Stop it.

5.  Shopping

I like a pretty dress as much as the next girl, but deeply resent the idea that luxury brands (such as Pr*d* and J*mmy Ch**) have come to be shorthand for some kind of aspirational philosophy.  For this excellent reason, I never pick up books with shoes on the cover, anything with the word shopaholic in the title, or anything by Candace Bushnell.  You would think that this would be enough.  No, it is not.

Because it seems that even the most sensible novelists are not immune to the lure of the brand.  Product placement is practically inescapable in this weird, diverse genre known as chicklit.  In fact, the one thing that marred my enjoyment of the excellent Ms Keyes’ The Other Side of the Story – apart from the daft Russian stereotype, oh Lord – was the constant mention of a certain cosmetics brand.  I started to think of this cosmetics brand as a main character after a while.

Perhaps this is the nature of “commercial” fiction, but it makes me sad anyway.  For one thing, it feels an awful lot like I, the reader, am supposed to be some easily manipulated, gaping idiot who will run out and buy whatever it is that the author happens to be plugging.  And this is very disappointing.  After all, the best of chicklit – the best of any genre – presumes that the reader has a mind of his or her own.

The Verdict

Do these five things really and truly hamper my enjoyment of a novel?  Yes, they do.  Do I come across them often?  All too often.  But despite having more than enough material for this very ranty soapbox, do I really love chicklit?  The answer is yes.  The best of chicklit is so enjoyable, you see, that I’m quite prepared to brave the hazards.  I’m going to keep on picking up those fat, colourful novels for as long as they are around.

* Ms North, I have a bone to pick with you about prostitution.

26 comments on “Five Things I Hate About Chicklit

  1. Lisa
    November 20, 2008

    Obviously I am now desperate to hear more about the prostitution bone. That sounds slightly dodgy somehow…

    I found this really thought-provoking, Kirsty. I’m particularly intrigued by the product placement issue – I wonder how often it occurs in other genres too? I’m not sure I’ve used any brand names in my books. *Wracks brain* Although, full disclosure, I did describe a lot of my brother’s work (he’s a glassmaker) in Prince Rupert’s Teardrop, as one of the characters had the same profession as my brother, and I thought it would be a nice touch to include some of my bro’s designs. It made me feel really happy to include his art in my art, if you like (and as an afterthought, it’s been cool to give people Xmas presents that can be seen in PRT!)

    But with big commercial brands, is there an incentive to include them? I’ve heard shadowy tales of big name authors receiving baskets of merchandise that they’ve plugged, but I’ve no idea if it’s true.

    The make-over issue is something I’ve talked to Rosy about before. For a while it seemed to crop up in loads of books. Trinny and Susannah effect?

    Anyhow, excellent piece!

  2. rosyb
    November 20, 2008

    “and damn well MADE TO CONFORM”

    This is the line that really strikes chords bells and whole orchestras of accordions with me. It is the thing that disturbs me most. I want good comedy involving women but it’s the constant messages banging home conformity that get me.

    And aspiration to these vacuous materialistic fashion-led lifestyles…alternatively to these soft and caring mothering lifestyles. (Nothing against those ideas – well yes, the first one maybe – but it is the confirming of these very set and familiar roles for women.) I do feel that women in our society are never celebrated for their eccentricities or original characters – and if eccentric it must be CUTE eccentric. ARGH.

    This product placement also seems disturbing – are they actually direct advertising? Why would products be plugged in books?

    I do think Bridget Jones is a bit misunderstood though – through the portrayal in the films. I think the books are much more spiky and double-edged. She is not a cutesy clown in he books. But a bit of an anti-hero. If you like.

    The snobbery is an aspect I am very interested in though and would like to hear more about. Do you think there is old-fashioned class snobbery? Or other sorts? And what is this part of and who is it aimed at?

    I read two chicklit books a while back and I got fed up with one and was enjoying the other…but they both ended up with the heroine marrying a lord. I mean am I the only person to find that positively DISTURBING as a satisfying conclusion in this day and age? (Perhaps if the response to the Wimsey pieces on Vulpes are anything to go by I’m in the minority.)

    The trouble I always find is that when I say that I don’t like some of the messages given out to women, those who want to bash chicklit will come in going “yes – pah! LIghtweight. Not literary. Funny. Ugh” Which is not my problem AT ALL. And those who disagree will weigh in saying it’s a conspiracy against women. I think, at the end of the day, it’s like any genre and needs to be looked at properly, not dismissed as a whole or loved as a whole. What are the books saying about women and women’s aspirations and experiences, that’s what is important to me.

    This is why I really enjoyed this piece – because it was written from the perspective of someone who loves the genre but is analysing and critiquing what you feel lets it down too. I would be very interested to see more comments on this.

  3. kirstyjane
    November 20, 2008

    I suppose I should precise that Bridget Jones is not neeeearly as bad as the legion of her imitators, many of whom seem to have caught onto the humiliation aspect without the wit… rather like Tolkien, I may not enjoy the original, but I know bad derivation when I see it.

    And I will defend chicklit to all comers. Sure, it is a mixed bag, but it’s any genre worth its salt? The idea of lighthearted writing by women is as legitimate and as good as any other. If I were to be very cynical, I would wonder whether perhaps the existence in practice of many less than brilliant examples of this genre might come from the book industry churning out chicklit novels at such a rate that every really good new book is inevitably going to be accompanied by a number of others that, well, fit the mold… quantity as opposed to quality being the measure. Maybe someone with more industry insight can give us their views here?

    Re. lords, I was pleasantly surprised when Kate Lace demonstrated that you can, in fact, write a class divide romance without pandering to the old stereotypes or even making assumptions about the virtues or otherwise of one social set as opposed to the other. But that’s a very rare exception. The appearance of nobility in a chicklit novel is rarely a good sign…

  4. kirstyjane
    November 20, 2008

    Oh, and the product placement I have seen tends to be very obvious.

    “Oh”, said Mrs Thing, “I would be simply lost without my Radiant Shine Lipgloss! It comes in a variety of ten simply wonderful colours and I tell you, my Albert has never been so lively!”

    Petunia bit her own chapped, lacklustre lips. Perhaps David the hot office junior would fall at her feet if her lips were coated in Luscious Berry or Lascivious Cherry. She resolved to go to Boots at lunchtime and buy one in every colour. Perhaps while she was at it she would get a new pair of those emerald green stilettos from Big Expensive Shoe Shop… After all, surely she deserved a treat for talking to her boss without bursting into tears?


  5. Emma
    November 20, 2008

    Great piece, Kirsty

    Lisa, blame Ian Fleming for the brands – he invented it. It’s a quick (lazy?) way of getting readers to recognise a character’s place in the world, to feel pleased with themselves for recognising it (they too belong to the club), AND to know that though they recognise they don’t own, and therefore Bond (or Ms Chick-lit) is someone they can aspire to.

    Rosy, I agree in principle, but as a novelist it makes my heart sink to feel that I should make all my characters resist stereotypes as a matter of principle, or otherwise my feminist credentials will be in trouble. Yes, I’m a paid-up feminist, but I think that most of humanity’s aspirations will always include finding long-term love with another human being. If we’re talking archetypes, after all, you can call such a story it a wedding of the Jungian male and female archetypes, which symbolically represents the integration of animus and anima in a single human psyche. (Someone who’s read more than The Seven Basic Plots tell me I’ve got this all wrong…)

    Which isn’t to say that a fair chunk of any genre isn’t tosh, written to tick-box marketing plans by writers with no other interest than paying the mortgage.

  6. RosyB
    November 21, 2008

    “Rosy, I agree in principle, but as a novelist it makes my heart sink to feel that I should make all my characters resist stereotypes as a matter of principle, or otherwise my feminist credentials will be in trouble. Yes, I’m a paid-up feminist, but I think that most of humanity’s aspirations will always include finding long-term love with another human being.”

    I think you misunderstood me, Emma. Or maybe I wasn’t making much sense. I have nothing against stereotypes myself. I am all in favour! I think comedy relies on them to some extent. Maybe you were referring to my ref to the women’s roles? I don’t think that’s about stereotypes at all. For me, it is more that the same roles and types of message that are given out in WF starts to feel limiting. And I suppose it does reflect a lot of women’s experience. But, like Kirsty said about the attititude to children and the judgment that goes along with that…not chicklit but I was watching a great drama Damages the other day with this awful lawyer who is a really nasty piece of work (played by Glenn Close) and then towards the end it shows her crying over the grave of her stillborn child…as though this was some kind of explanation of her general bitter and twisted ways. And – as a woman – well yes I did find that a bit offensive. Offensive is too strong a word but it really jolted me out of the drama and alienated me.

    What was I talking about? Stereotypes? No problem. The assumption that we all should subscribe to these roles and think the same…that bothers me.

    And I’m not at all saying that all chicklit does this or anything like that. But some of it definitely does.

  7. RosyB
    November 21, 2008

    I am also interesting in how far chicklit IS a genre and how much it is a publishers’ creation. And how far the conventions of the genre start to be pushed after the fact, as it were. I mean I used to think chicklit was sex and shopping books. But it seems to me that the overall genre is actually just Romantic Comedy – which has existing in all sorts of ways for centuries and can carry all sorts of messages and ideas. The same stereotypes can also be used to say all sorts of different things for that matter.

  8. Clodagh
    November 21, 2008

    Interesting article.

    Personally, I agree about the shopping thing. I’d never read any Sophie Kinsella until very recently for that reason as the whole shopaholic thing just doesn’t appeal to me – and I still haven’t read any of the ‘Shopaholic’ series. On the other hand, they’re some of the most successful chick lit books ever – ditto ‘Devil Wears Prada’ – so there must be plenty of women out there who do want to read about labels and shopping.

    These books are written by women and read by women, so they must reflect some aspect of women’s experience. I find all that mentioning of brands annoying because I’m not a bags and shoes person and don’t know my Manolos from my Choos. But at the same time, I know a girl who could spot a fake Fendi a mile away, and who says her experience isn’t as valid as anyone else’s?

    Rosy, I agree that Bridget Jones has been misunderstood, largely because of the films. The books were much funnier and sharper, I thought. But I think the whole slapstick thing is misunderstood a lot of the time. After all, these books are meant to be funny, and incompetent, clumsy, inept characters are the basis for a lot of comedy. Look at Laurel & Hardy, Basil Fawlty, Frank Spencer … The idea that women should never be portrayed in that way seems pretty tyrannical to me, and a bit condescending actually.

    I have to admit I’m a bit of a sucker for a makeover/transformation story, from Cinderella on.

    (I’m paranoid now, and I’m off to check if I’ve done any of these things.)

  9. Teresa
    November 21, 2008

    RosyB’s idea of chicklit as romantic comedy is an interesting one. I tend to both enjoy and be annoyed by the same things in both. Sometimes I jsut want light entertainment with a guaranteed happy ending. It’s soothing. But I can’t stand the slapstick elements in the bad Bridget Jones imitators and the “you will conform, dammit” tendencies that Kirsty refers to. These all-too-common tendencies have led me to avoid anything that looks like chicklit, even though I’m sure some of it as enjoyable as Bridget Jones’ Diary or In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner, which I quite enjoyed.

    I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for the authors you mention Kirstie. I don’t think any of them have much of a following on this side of the pond.

  10. Jackie
    November 21, 2008

    At first I wondered why there was a photo of a baby bird on this post. Then I realized it was a chick. lol Is it a baby pheasant?
    Nora Roberts & Jude Devereaux does graphic sex nicely, I think. Sometimes I feel cheated when the bedroom door is shut firmly in my face. After all, I’m reading chicklit for the vicarious thrills, that includes the sexual ones.
    I’ve never really paid much attention to product placement, tending to view brand names with the same interest as “she put marmalade on her toast”. Just a little detail. Or maybe I’ve never read any of the ones that have overdone it?
    The makeover aspect is what really bugs me about chicklit. There’s a whole image problem within the genre, if the heroine isn’t already a slim, successful business person, she will be by books end. As you say, quirkiness and non-conformity are to be eradicated and so is excess weight. Just once, I’d like to read a chicklit book about a short, overweight middle-aged woman who gets the guy without resorting to a crash diet, new hairstyle and/or make-up session. Who is attractive just the way she is.
    I think the Cinderella formula is the downfall of the genre, and one that sends a self-esteem message to women: you are not ready to handle this situation, whatever it is, unless you look like a babe. In male oriented books, such as thrillers, the hero never undergoes such transformations. He always has the skills to deal with any situation: shooting, special ops training, driving any type of vehicle, sexual confidence, martial arts, field experience, etc. They always have the knowledge they need, right at their fingertips. But women can’t do a simple office assignment without a new pair of shoes or getting her hair done. Whatever would she do in an espionage encounter? It’s bad enough when men write this way, but I really resent that female authors play into that male misassumption. They shouldn’t keep their sisters down.

  11. kirstyjane
    November 21, 2008

    Jackie, I’m not sure what kind of a chick it is (she says, embarrassed) – I will go and look it up!

    I want to add something on the issue of stereotypes. Of course, to some degree stereotypes are unavoidable in literature as in life – or perhaps archetypes is a better word. i don’t think there’s such a thing as a one hundred percent original character in life, so how (and why) should such a thing exist in lit?

    No, my beef is with the authors who throw together a collection of two-dimensional characters and call that comedy. I mention Wendy Holden because I recently read Pastures Nouveaux, which had a mousy housewife turned businesswoman, a weak chinned aristocrat, a shy, bookish solicitor, a soft-edged but secretly foxy schoolteacher, a footballer and his awful wife, a pair of vulgar, wealthy Americans (who were, of course, simply fixated on all things English) and a collective of weirdie eco warriors led by a strident purple haired woman who was awfully like the strident purple haired woman in Azur Like It (which was full of stodgy Northerners, vulgar nouveaux riches, emotional French persons, decadent artists and a small, chic elderly woman with a glamorous past). Ms Holden is vastly popular so clearly the play of stereotypes *does* work for a lot of people – it just really, really doesn’t for me.

  12. Moira
    November 21, 2008

    Terrific piece, Kirsty … and you’ve hit on my pet peeves, too.

    Like you, I enjoy a good piece of chicklit from time to time as a bit of light relief from what I usually read (currently Lord Melbourne’s biography …), but I feel my toes tightening as soon as the British aristocracy enters the picture. Do me a favour. Please. Most of the males of the species could live off their jackets for a week if they were boiled up in a stockpot. Trust me on this, ladies.

    Sex is another bugbear. If it isn’t done well, it’s just plain embarrassing and best avoided. I’d like to put in a good word for Phillipa Ashley in the ‘good sex’ department. I think it’s just one of those things – either you can write good sex, or you can’t – and if you can’t, you probably can’t really learn. Deploy those three dots to advantage . . .

    And don’t even get me started on the shopping stuff. Don’t. You don’t want to know. Anyone who cares that much about shoes, handbags and lip gloss will be the first to the wall when the revolution comes.

    I’m also in the camp that found Bridget Jones intensely irritating – and I don’t mean the films, because I disliked the book so much I wouldn’t touch the films with a ten foot pole. ( I say ‘book’ singular because I only read the first one … and I barely managed to finish that.) Can’t quite put my finger on why … possibly just because I simply didn’t have an iota of sympathy with the main character – ie: Bridget herself. It wasn’t so much that there was no fellow-feeling, it was more that we didn’t even seem to be from the same planet.

    There now. I feel much better. Thank you for listening.

  13. Sam
    November 21, 2008

    I don’t think you can generalise about whether slapstick or shopping or stereotypes work or not, it very much depends on the author – i struggle with Holden but love love Kinsella’s Shopoholic books – and yet i am a middle-aged woman who hates shopping and has never aspired to or bought a brand in her life.

    And yet you have to remember to whom these books are marketed – look around next time you are out shopping, looadddddsssssssss of young women now wear fake burberry, prada, bla bla and clearly do aspire to that lifestyle.

    What do i expect from a chick lit book? Slapstick, shopping, bad sex? Yes, sometimes i do.

    Like any other genre, it’s all down to the author and some can successfully pull these things off.

    Interesting, well put-together article Kirsty, well done.


  14. Kate Lace
    November 21, 2008

    Oh, b****r. In the Trophy Girl the hero is an Earl. To late to sort that out then, as it’s already published. Ooops.

    But I am unbelievably grateful to have been linked with Katie and Jill who I bow down to when I meet them. Seriously!
    Kate Lace

  15. kirstyjane
    November 21, 2008

    Hey Kate, check out my comment above… number three I think.

    I made an exception for you. Probably because your Earl wasn’t straight out of central casting, and has a chin (with a dimple if I recall).:D

    Anyway, I though the Trophy Girl was lovely – one of the most relaxing reads I have had in a long while. And an excellent distraction from Stalin.

  16. Melrose Plant
    November 21, 2008

    How about me… I’m an earl… or was… (I think) I thought you liked me. 😦

  17. kirstyjane
    November 21, 2008

    Melrose, you aren’t in chicklit. I do object to your creator’s weird idea of Britishness though!

  18. Alexandra
    November 21, 2008

    I’m afraid, and I hope this comes over ok, I don’t understand the concept that some people think that just because they like a genre they should enjoy every book in it. I don’t always like every book by an author, I may love some of them and hate others. That’s life… Likewise, I won’t like every fantasy book presented to me, but I may like quite a few. So it’s not really different to this genre. So this post came over a little differently to me, as if it’s wanting to start up something of a discussion (again) about the misgivings that people see in Chicklit.

    I’m also pretty sure that chicklit isn’t as limited as depicted above. I have only read a handful of chicklit books in the last year but none have had the 5 points above, it can be therefore a matter of what we’re lucky enough to have picked in tune with what we were looking for.

    There is always such passionate talk about chick lit that it’s sort of tempting to write these lists and see what happens? See who wants to contest? Sorry, I know the post is well-intended, it was only how I saw it really.

    A series maybe on the five-things against different genres may make for some interesting follow up? Maybe it’s good to highlight this across the board?

    I’m a fan of your Russia posts, so I’m hoping this comes over in an intended good way.

  19. kirstyjane
    November 21, 2008

    Hello Alexandra and thanks for the comment! I do see what you mean, but the intent of my post really wasn’t to complain that I don’t like everything in a given genre – in fact, as I have tried to convey, chicklit is rather an arbitrary definition. So many different authors are packaged up and sold in the same way! Having a blanket opinion one way or the other would make me… not very discerning.

    The first thing to bear in mind is that this is a soapbox piece, so it is supposed to be ranty (in my world anyway 😉 ). The second is that it is about 1500 words long, which only allows for a schematic overview. I wanted to convey that in general terms I am a fan of the genre, but there are these five things that, in my extensive reading of all things chicklit, just keep on cropping up and disconcerting me. I am actually surprised by the amount of discussion the post has set off – the idea behind the soapbox was just to express my view as a reader of a certain genre.

    And to be honest, I think that starting a discussion is rather good (even if it is accidental). People don’t discuss chicklit enough in my opinion, except for the standard genre war stuff. I am really, really happy to see such a lively response to this piece, and don’t really care if people see it my way or not – why should they? Everyone has their lens.

  20. Barry
    November 23, 2008

    Just a brief note.
    I can think of one chick lit novel that stays clear of The Five Sins: “The Big Love” by Sarah Dunn. Has anyone here read this? I just read it again recently and it still holds up.

  21. Jodie
    November 24, 2008

    ‘as a novelist it makes my heart sink to feel that I should make all my characters resist stereotypes as a matter of principle, or otherwise my feminist credentials will be in trouble. Yes, I’m a paid-up feminist, but I think that most of humanity’s aspirations will always include finding long-term love with another human being.’

    This is a hard one. The thing I always hate about chick-lit is the endings (and the product placement – I know it’s more YA but The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants drove me mad with all the name dropping). I hate that 90% of the books end with a conventional romance being what makes the woman happy. I’m not saying ‘and then she married the prince’ should be excluded from all chick-lit novels but I would love to see authors think more carefully about what else might make a woman happy. If a bit of variety entered the genre on the ending front I’d probably read twice as much chick-lit.

    However I also don’t want to read just ‘moral fiction’ when I’m dipping into chick-lit. I don’t want to see every book end with ‘ and then she got a fab career’ either, for the sake of pushing feminism. I guess I want writers to do what feels right for the characters but at the same time I’d like what they think feels right for the characters to not always be the big white wedding. Perhaps if writers broke with chick-lit stereotypes when creating characetrs they would find that these characetrs required different editors.

    Great spot about the motherhood thing. Oh and by the way why do so many chick-lit heroines fall in love with their best male friend? I find that so unrealistic (and a bit dull). However I do see this particular trend starting to change now (‘Daydream Girl’, ‘Welcome to the Real World’).

  22. Pingback: One Night Stanzas » Blog Archive » Procrastination Station #17

  23. Donna
    January 5, 2009

    I happened upon your website and found this article interesting!

    I thought I’d just mention that, according to an interview I read, Lauren Weisberger (The Devil Wears Prada) is trying out some brand recognition thing in her novels’ titles, like “Chasing Harry Winston”. I suppose it really has to do with lifestyle aspirations for the young and single who spend only on themselves (which is why it’s great to target that demographic!).

    You know what was one gross “MADE TO CONFORM” novel? “Jemima J.” by Jane Green!!! I thought it was so great at the time because it was my first taste of chick lit. Then I got a bit older and read about women who never lost 7 stone (because they were thin to begin with) and now it is just something I am _almost_ ashamed to say I like.

  24. laurenrobbins6
    May 29, 2010

    I agree completely with the overuse of product placement in chiklit (and I find this is more the case in American chiklit than British chiklit) It’s very difficult to get through the novel if you have to stop in the middle of the plot and read about what every character is wearing (epitomized, quite possibly, in “The Devil Wears Prada”).

    I’m a big fan of chicklit, though. Especially in that it is a great “escapist” genre. So even though the “cinderella” story of the ultimate makeover is certainly overused and may send a message that you need to conform to the current beauty trends in order to be happy, there are different versions of this plot that are more encouraging and thoughtful.

    For example, in Debby Holt’s “The Ex-wife’s survival guide,” the main character gets a lifestyle makeover in order to finally be in control of her life, discovering what she really wants. So the cinderella story chiklit isn’t always about products and looks.

    Great post! I love ranting about books too 🙂

  25. Pingback: Love Always (or, more accurately, in praise of Harriet Evans) « Vulpes Libris

  26. Pingback: Chick lit – tramsigt och korkat eller träffsäkert och klokt? | En chick-lit-karamell blir till

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This entry was posted on November 20, 2008 by in Entries by Kirsty, Fiction: women's, Thursday Soapbox and tagged , , , , .



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