Coco Pinchard must have a lot more patience than I do. Either that, or much smaller fingers. For she has written an entire book on her iPhone...while I can barely manage to type out more than four sentences before turning back to my laptop, with its large keys that actually depress and that satisfying click.
“The Not So Secret Emails of Coco Pinchard,” by Robert Bryndza, is made up entirely of emails that Londoner Coco has sent from her iPhone, mostly to her friend Chris. The emails are long, descriptive and entertaining. Unfortunately, they must not be very compelling because neither Chris nor any of her other recipients ever bother to reply.
The communiqués begin on Christmas Day, as Coco writes Chris to describe her holiday. Through this email, we meet her sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Meryl and Tony; her mother-in-law, Ethel; husband, Daniel and son, Rosencrantz. Both Coco and Rosencrantz receive iPhones from Daniel; Coco is disappointed as she would have preferred something from Tiffany’s. Her disappointment grows when Daniel announces that his family will need these gifts to keep up with him, as he’s just signed on as musical director for the “Whistle Up The Wind” (not a sequel to the popular “Whistle Down the Wind,” mind you) tour in North America. Not surprisingly, Coco is furious about his unilateral decision and announcement in front of the whole family, and retreats to her bedroom to spend the rest of her holiday with Christmas booze and cigarettes.
Fortunately, Coco has other things to look forward to, such as the publication of her first book, “Chasing Diana Spencer.” Unfortunately, things go from bad to worse. She catches Daniel in bed with an actress, and the drinking binge that follows causes her to be too honest on a radio show about her book. Her agent dumps her, her book is pulled, and Daniel takes off for America, leaving her to take care of his mother and very little money to get by.
As Coco struggles to keep her head above water, deal with her disintegrating marriage, help Rosencrantz through personal and legal troubles, and try to find a romance of her own , all is detailed in long, descriptive emails to Chris (and some to other best friend Marika). These missives are complete with dialogue and details to bring the scenes to life.
Bryndza tells a good story and has created an appealing heroine in Coco. She is funny, creative, resilient and supportive of her friends and family. She’s a better daughter to Ethel than her mother-in-law’s own children are. As things go from bad to worse for both Coco and her son, she never gives up on either one of them, and eventually her hard work and persistence are rewarded.
My quibble is with the format Bryndza chose to tell the story. Why an email-based book in 2012, when the medium has been popular since the 1990s? While I enjoyed Coco’s long descriptive letters, text messages and Twitter are leading to shorter and more direct messages. The book is supposed to be current, but seems dated because of this. Furthermore, since Coco is writing to a real life good friend, there is no back story or physical description of the players involved. Wondering what Coco looks like, or why she and Daniel decided to name their son after a minor Hamlet character? Me too, and you won’t get the answers here. Because of this format, we never see anything happen in “real time;” all events are described by Coco after the fact. And since she never receives any replies, the emails lack the back-and-forth dialogue that are the hallmark of this type of communication. True, a minor plot point near the end of the story hinges on the emails, but that point could have easily been developed without the book being written in them.
Even with the limitations of the format, thought, the book is well worth a read. Bryndza has crafted an engaging heroine and thrown her into the deep end. Coco goes down, but she comes back up better than ever.
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