Wendy's Reviews > Sparkles

Sparkles by Louise Bagshawe
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May 17, 08

bookshelves: 2008, womens-fiction, fiction
Recommended for: people looking for practice editing others' work
Read in May, 2008

** spoiler alert ** My latest Bagshawe, based on having quite enjoyed the last one I read. This one promised an epic read, and the book is certainly long enough, but dear me the characters are a dreary bunch, by and large. With the exception of Hugh Montfort (and to a lesser degree, Sophie Massot), there's nobody particularly admirable or endearing. Most of the other characters (and even Hugh and Sophie to some degree) feel a bit like cardboard cutouts moving through the scenery that is haut Paris. The business movers are ethically sleazy, the powerful disdainful, or rude, or cruel, to their underlings, the secretaries gossipy and vapid. Pierre Massot is a sociopath; his wife beautiful and effortlessly stylish, but a bit of a nonentity until she has him declared dead; his son is a sulky teenager in severe need of a smack upside the head; and his mistress is obsessively jealous and vengeful (there was one of those in A Kept Woman, too; an emerging theme?).

As usual, the writing suffers from excessive description - because it's set in the world of high fashion, we get every detail of the primary characters' clothing choices: designer, colour, style, cut, accessories, down to and including the individual stones in their jewellery. (To be fair, the book is about jewellery dynasty, but I wearied of all the brand names immediately.) Oh, and the things they eat. And drink. Quite apart from the excruciating descriptions, some of the writing feels sloppy and less polished than it should; there is some craft missing. Point of view is inconsistent, and there is a lot of head hopping even within paragraphs. There is also a lot of telling versus showing, which takes most of the tension and much of the interest out of the story at those points.

My final complaint is the twist, which feels like a patch to the main plot, applied to provide a reason for a fireworks-filled ending, which was, notwithstanding, trite, melodramatic, and entirely overblown.

I finished the book, because I liked Sophie enough to want to know how things came out, but I skipped over a lot of the book (mostly the descriptions), because that's what I do when tension flags. Bagshawe's presentation of haute couture and high society doesn't read like the writing of an insider; anyone who has read an international Vogue magazine could drop the same names - Chanel, Louboutin, Lamborghini, Tiffany. Judith Krantz wrote about Paris society and fashion much more believably, many years ago, in Scruples.

In all, not one of Bagshawe's better efforts. She's written better. Also, the title is rubbish: unoriginal, bland, and pretty meaningless.
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