Friday, February 13, 2015

Book Review: Losing It

By Becky Gulc

‘Millie is agony aunt for ‘The Good Woman Magazine’. In debt, divorced and desperate, she’s about to lose her house. Worse, she has no money, a best friend with a better sex life than her, a daughter in Papua New Guinea and too much weight in places she really doesn’t want.

When she’s asked to be front woman for a new diet pill, Millie naively believes that all her troubles will be solved. She can save her house, the weight will be gone and maybe she’ll get sex – or at least have someone to go to the cinema with. If only life was really that easy. As the money dwindles and the weight clings on, Millie is forced to up her game: It doesn’t take her long to realize it’s going to take more than a diet pill to solve her troubles.

The day of the photo shoot arrives…Can a middle aged woman really have it all? A hilarious, brutally honest exploration of a woman who still feels 30 but can't deny the odd stray grey …’
(Synopsis courtesy of Helen Lederer's website.)

Losing It is the debut novel by comedian and actress Helen Lederer, which she describes as ‘mid-lit’ (a follow on from ‘chick lit’ but before ‘grey lit’). With the glowing quotes from high-profile names on the back cover this is a book that sets high expectations for its readers.

I felt this book was written well; it flowed well and there was a great sense of place through the trip to Papua New Guinea. I could picture some of the supporting characters so vividly. It seems rare nowadays for a book to stick with one narrator throughout and I thought that made a nice change to follow the same person through from start to finish. Millie as a character is also very three-dimensional, very real, very flawed in many respects. I think Helen must have been very clear on what she wanted the character of Millie to be like and that was followed through throughout the novel.

Whilst this book has plenty of theoretically comical scenes within it, for me it didn’t quite work as the comedy novel it intended to be. I’ve gone over why this is and for me I think it’s because I just didn’t find Millie likeable. She’s selfish, belittling of friends and those who try to be her friend, and because that’s a pretty constant feature, it meant even if a scene was meant to be funny I found it so-so funny rather than laugh out loud funny because I hadn’t warmed to the character at the centre of it.

I enjoyed the premise of the book, the challenge to lose the weight, and to secure the money to pay off her debts, for me I would have just preferred a more amenable character on this journey. As I didn’t warm to Millie, I found myself not particularly caring whether she made her target weight loss or not so my interest waned the longer it went on. That said I don’t think Millie is designed to be a particularly likeable character, and I’m sure plenty of people will enjoy the book despite this and find the humour that unfortunately didn’t work for me on this occasion.

Thanks to Helen Lederer for the book in exchange for an honest review.


Janine said...

Thank you for the review

Geralyn Corcillo said...

Humor sure is a tricky thing. All in the Family with Archie Bunker and Curb Your Enthusiasm with Larry David were huge comedic successes centered around an unlikable character. It's all a matter of finding the right audience, and I think Becky Gule does a great job of dissecting the humor and pointing out that while it did not work for her, it might indeed work for many others. Chick Lit Central absolutely rocks.