Ok, I confess. I am a literary snob. I happily join the ranks of uptight people who read books described by the Times and Margaret Atwood as ‘meaningful’, ‘thought provoking’ and ‘poignant’. I revel in subplots, experimental language and universal themes. Yearly, I anxiously await the Man Booker Prize list so I can rush to the computer and place holds on at least five titles.
However, I have been feeling out of touch recently. A series of delightful female customers have asked me for advice in finding a ‘light read’. I was coming to dread these interactions because they left me gabbling and sounding like I didn’t know what on earth I was talking about, which I didn’t, and I hate that. “If you like…” help pages only go so far.
So, when the Five Book Challenge came along, I decided to leap in and tackle my greatest fear – Chick Lit. The snob in me was appalled but you’ve only got to look at the statistics to see how popular the Chick Lit genre is. Danielle Steel alone has sold over 530 million copies worldwide whereas many titles that make the Booker shortlist have trouble covering publishing costs. I started to wonder if there is more to Chick-Lit than I realised.
My first problem was finding where to start …
There are so many authors listed under this genre it made my mind reel. Then there sub-headings: historical, fantasy, crime and comedy Chick Lit. And there are age specific categories – try Chick Lit, Hen Lit and (heaven help us) Broiler Lit. So, I did what I usually do when I’m stuck, I asked my colleagues. Imagine my surprise when I was met with blank stares, rolling eyes and groans of dismay, “Oh no, not Chick Lit! How heinous!”
I began to feel perplexed. Where should I turn now? Would I have to resort to the Reader’s Advisory page on the website after all? Then a strange thing started to happen. People kept coming up to me in quiet corners and whispering things like “Don’t tell anyone but try Cecelia Ahern. She’s great. She made me cry!”, “If you’re looking for a laugh, Janet Evanovich is great fun!” and “Nora Roberts writes a really lovely story.”
So, it seems many librarians are undercover Chick Lit readers. Who would have thought it! It seems everyone has their favourite author although I have yet to find a male Chick Lit fan. For the sake of my colleagues’ reputations they shall remain anonymous throughout this blog but be assured every title on my reading list came highly recommended by someone in my team.
I whittled down my list and chose six of the Big Girls of Chick Literature. (Yes, I know it’s supposed to be the Five Book challenge, but I told you I was uptight and try hard!) I started reading. And – I had fun!
Janet Evanovich’s ‘Motor Mouth’ was a gutsy romp full of gun toting, busty, butt-kicking women who don’t flinch at the sight of a dead body and happily wrestle with their drop dead gorgeous men. I loved Marian Keyes’ ‘Anybody out there?’ It was full of funny, eccentric characters who pull at your heart strings as they muddle through life before reaching their happy endings. I found Danielle Steel a little dry. In the book I read, ‘Mirage’, she seemed to have forgotten the ‘show and don’t tell’ adage of every writing course during the past 30 years.
Cecelia Ahern came up with a brilliant plot idea in ‘PS I love you’ – no wonder it has been made into a top selling movie. Jackie Collins took me into a baudy and celeb obsessed world where making it big comes at any cost and Nora Roberts’, ‘Born in Fire’, is the first in a three part series starring a fiesty, red haired Irish glass artist and her handsome agent who finally get it on till death do they part – Ahh!
The great thing about Chick Lit is that it isn’t demanding. It doesn’t aim to solve the world’s big issues. It doesn’t wow the reader with fancy techniques. It doesn’t revel in poetic language. What Chick Lit does, and for the most part does very well, is entertain. It’s fun. It takes you away from the everyday grind and helps you believe that love can win out over any adversity. Am I a convert? No, not really. After six books I found I missed the bite of contemporary fiction, the odd angle that makes me ponder about life and the nature of humankind. However, next time I go on holiday I shall certainly slip a Marian Keyes title into my bag. I won’t let any of my colleagues catch me doing it though!