Kicking off summer reading 2019! That being said — sometimes I read books after everyone else has it seems. “Shopaholic” or Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella has been on my popular lit/fun reading list for many years now. Previously I saw the film which was okay, I felt like it was a bit uneven. And now that I’ve read the book, I think it’s because Hollywood duly: “Hollywood-ized” a lot of the book into different story lines. Spoilers follow for both the book and the film.
The lead character Rebecca Bloomwood is a mess. She wants to be a writer at a high end magazine, preferably in fashion but she doesn’t really want to work hard at it. She has settled for a job at a financial trade magazine, where she does the minimum of work required for her job, getting free drinks if possible, goofing off, taking the free food home and what little swag she can score. She is a bit of a lonely person — and she doesn’t really have a lot that makes her happy, this includes friends and a pitched boyfriend that did not rock her world.
The only thing that makes her happy is temporary and it’s her addiction to shopping — often high end and compulsive. The high/the rush she gets is temporary from racking up the purchase to watching it wrapped and carrying it home. Because of her shopping debt she is living with Suze in the novel — Suze is a trust funder who failed at PR/Public relations and is a good friend in that she lets Rebecca live with her and often will tear up whatever checks she solicits for bills when Rebecca says she has debt. Suze though is also an enabler — who always wants to see what Rebecca has bought and sort of re-enforces her ongoing bad spending habits — just by living her own high end life.
Rebecca in the novel, I found sort of flakey and hard to like at times. Her comprehension about the world at large seems to be off including on her frugal plan (more about that later) to visit museums which she presumes are free. And her plans to tell people she went to the museum, and to sound more cultured make her sound even more superficial. Also she pads her resume and says she knows a foreign language thinking it is obscure and instead is targeted by a recruiter and has to literally run out of the meeting.
Over all, her personality leans to the short lived compulsive. Someone who goes all in for something, then goes overboard and then abandons something out right. In the book she goes home at one point to hide from creditors and buys a book about frugal living and buys herself all the accessories, high end flask for toting coffee, etc. Rebecca in the book articulates and defends every purchase both before and after the frugal living book, evoking the frugal living author in that it is a long term investment purchase before she decides the whole frugal living mantra is giving her anxiety after she fails at making curry (and buying a whole lot of things for the kitchen) and tosses it.
To be clear, I felt bad for Rebecca at other times — when she tried to go frugal it was almost fruitless. Her unhappiness of not being able to treat herself to a brownie and a coffee is something that is relatable on many levels. The idea that someone cannot live a moderate life and it throws them into a depression when they try to be ultra strict with themselves, is sad — but to note, the overall tone of the whole story is quite light.
The compulsive nature of what she is buying gets extreme to when she buys moisturizers from Boots, which she states are complete necessities/or essentials only to forget and buy more at Clarins for a free gift with purchase that she tries to rationalize before actually admitting the free lipstick isn’t even a pretty shade–and then she remembers about the previous moisturizers. She realizes the duplicate purchases but does not acknowledge that she is out of control.
Continually Rebecca over rationalizes/notates each purchase and at the beginning of the story, she sort of has these shopping blackouts — not even remembering when she was in certain stores or what she bought, etc. Then there are a few awkward moments when she literally comes face to face with the collections officer and his assistant. The novel also includes all the letters from the creditors politely dismissing all her flakey excuses and asking for payment.
Rebecca seems disillusioned and apart from reality in many ways from how much things cost as far as long term purchasing habits, to her coping mechanism of throwing her bills down trash chutes or shoving them in drawers. The cliche of out of sight out of mind is a coping mechanism for her — she sort of understands the idea of consequences but she would rather hold off, etc.
Her luck goes up and down in amazing ways — the plot meanders and allows Rebecca to come clean and eventually forge a freelance career both in TV and print media that will allow her to pay off her debts. And the collectors seems so kindly about it — there are no charges of fraud or anything but there is a tipping point when her credit cards are frozen. The handsome PR guy that Fate keeps pushing around and back — ends up as her boyfriend — in sort of chick-lit-trifecta — Girl gets the guy, gets a good job, pays off shopping debt and can still shop.
As for the movie — the London location was moved to New York. Per Amazon/IMDB (dot)com trivia notes — to capitalize on the whole Sex in the City popularity/target market. The movie was different in that the roommate was exasperated with Rebecca’s spending and there was a hit bottom moment when she lost the bridesmaid’s dress for her wedding to a homeless woman. The handsome guy in the film version was actually her boss by a twist of fate — she was writing a how to live frugally/budget on a style column while getting further into compulsive spending/shopping debt. In the film, she also attends a shoppers anonymous group and has a huge sale to pay off her credit card debt — which again are Hollywood additions to the original novel.