Leah's Reviews > Gallery Girl

Gallery Girl by Wendy Holden
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's review
Aug 18, 2010

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bookshelves: for-review, books-read-2010
Read from August 07 to 10, 2010

Zeb Spaw is the contemporary artist of the year, even more so after his latest work Prostheseus Bound recently sold for £20 million, but will he be able to keep the masterpieces coming, or is it all downhill from there? Alice loves working in Palladio, a traditional art gallery, and loves boyfriend David more, but with him working longer hours their relationship is reaching breaking point. Maeve’s husband Ciaran has decided to re-launch his boy-band Boyfriend after the recent successful re-launches of Take That and Boyzone, but what about Maeve and her desire to begin painting again? Dan, a less than successful portrait painter, has moved to the country in the hope of finally getting his big break but ends up holding life classes. When Alice is catapulted into the world of contemporary art, she doesn’t know what to do with herself. And when Maeve walks into one of Dan’s art classes, there’s no telling where it will end.

I read my first Wendy Holden book last year and, despite it’s length – a massive 700 pages, I did really enjoy reading it. It was escapism at its best and I loved reading such a glamorous and sartorial tale. When I heard Wendy’s new book was a fresh take on Cinderella I was quite pleased. I adore the Cinderella fairytale and I couldn’t wait to see how Wendy put her own spin on the tail and I looked forward to reading it. I managed to receive an early copy and after finishing the ‘Shopaholic’ series, I eagerly started Gallery Girl.

Gallery Girl is another rather large book from Wendy, coming it at just under 500 pages and yet again Wendy is giving us her sartorial take on a world many of us probably don’t know. This time her focus is on the art gallery world, something I don’t really have any knowledge of, and I must admit that it seems like a totally bizarre world, if anything in the book is at all true. I doubt the majority of it is, as I know Wendy takes her ideas and then spins them into comical fiction novels so I suppose it’s a bit more ‘out there’ and exaggerated than what goes on in the actual art world. Despite the fact Wendy’s books are meant to be funny, I didn’t actually find Gallery Girl funny at all; there weren’t really any comical or laugh out loud moments. In fact, if anything, I did find Gallery Girl a bit of a difficult read.

I said that Gallery Girl was supposed to be a fresh take on Cinderella but I didn’t see any similarities to Cinderella in the book so I find that comparison a little bit confusing. Also, there doesn’t seem to be any kind of real plot. It just seemed like a bit of a mickey-take of the art world and I couldn’t point to one plot and say, “That’s the main one”. There’s a lot that goes on, most of it art-related, with Zeb, Alice and Angelica and also with Dan and Maeve but it was all a bit disjointed and seemed as if the book was a bit cobbled together. That may seem a bit harsh, and it pains me to say it, believe me, but there was no flow at all to the book. It jumped from Alice, to Angelica, to Zeb, to Dan, to Maeve and I could barely keep up with so many different plot strands at work.

Another huge problem I had with the book was the sheer amount of characters. There’s the main players of Alice, Angelica, Zeb, Dan and Maeve but then there’s various boyfriends, patrons, husbands, girlfriends/flat mates, friends and the book is fat with characters. So fat, in fact, that I couldn’t really get a grip on anybody. The only characters I think I liked were Dan and Maeve, they seemed like lovely people, and I quite liked their mini-plot line. Alice seemed like an OK character, too, but there wasn’t really enough of her. Bar those three, I couldn’t stand anyone else. As I’ve said there are tons of characters, most of them superfluous really, I would have taken out Maeve’s boy-band husband as well as Alice’s boyfriend David, as neither of them really added anything to the book other than padding and I think the book may have flowed a bit better without them and I certainly wouldn’t have missed them.

Don’t get me wrong, Gallery Girl wasn’t a bad book, but I just don’t think it worked for me. There was no real plot, just lots of strange strands hoping to form one big plot, a few too many characters and, to be honest, any art references just went straight over my head. I’m sure that someone who does know something about contemporary art would enjoy the comical, exaggerated tale and find all the daft sculptures and artists hilarious but because I know nothing about it, I wasn’t really able to appreciate Wendy’s take on it. I do however appreciate how much research Wendy must have put into the book as it does seem to be very well researched and thought-out. So although it’s not to my tastes, there may be people out there better able to appreciate it
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