Cecily's Reviews > Can You Keep a Secret?

Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella
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Jul 15, 2008

did not like it
bookshelves: overrated
Read in July, 2008

My first - and almost certainly last - foray into chick lit. Very shallow, contrived and implausible, albeit in a self-conscious ("ironic"?) way.

Although the "plot" may excuse the improbable co-incidences, there is no justification for the ludicrously artificial dialogue. I find all the "poor fluffy little me struggling to bluff it in the big bad grown up world" nauseating. Not as funny as it thinks because the humour, such as it is, is entirely reliant on very cliched stereotypes.

If it were written by a man, people would be outraged at how sexist it is.

Even if Kinsella was once ahead of the game by writing in this way, its startling unoriginality is just another annoyance.

I expected a juice bar/coffee shop rather than Heston Blumenthal's molecular gastronomy, but I ended up with soggy fluorescent candy floss.

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03/23 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-34 of 34) (34 new)

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message 1: by Cindy (new)

Cindy right on. I couldn't get past the first few chapters for the reasons you mentioned. Chick lit is fine but it's frightening to see a female author write such a pathetic female character.


Natalie Artemis.


Miriam What bothers me about this entire genre of books is female authors and readers apparently thinking that "normal" women are this pathetic, dumb, disorganized, and shallow.


Cecily Miriam wrote: "What bothers me about this entire genre of books is female authors and readers apparently thinking that "normal" women are this pathetic, dumb, disorganized, and shallow."

Exactly. Men who write that way are castigated, but it seems that if women do it, it's a laugh.


Tintin I totally agree. I don't need my books to be brainy - just enjoyable - and I didn't enjoy reading this. And to think I was excited because this was my first chick-lit read! I'm now very wary about this genre, but I'm giving it another chance. The characters were dumb and irritating and I felt like the author expected me to leave my brain at the door and forget that I put it there. Improbabilities are improbabilities, whether on chick lit or not.


Cecily If your next foray into chick lit is any better, please let me know. Till then, I'll avoid it!


message 7: by Lyn (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lyn I enjoyed this book very much.And yes I'm an immature 17 year old.But it is EXACTLY people like YOU that make me feel SO SELF-CONSCIOUS and DUMB.What is WRONG with reading books that make me laugh?WHY is it a virtual crime to enjoy occasional brainless,'shallow' books?I find it a talent,to write brainless,romantic fluff.Can you do that?Honestly can you achieve this kind of simple comedy?Reply with big ass words and strong arguments all you want.I'm just saying what I honestly feel about people like you and being a complete dumb adolescent.Peace:)


message 8: by Lyn (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lyn Sorry if I offended you.My dumb aura sometimes gets mistaken as offensive.But I do have a fervent distaste for your review,don't get me wrong:)Have a nice day!


message 9: by Cecily (last edited Feb 26, 2013 01:09PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Cecily I find I need a varied diet in books as well as food: sometimes something heavy and sometimes light fluff.

There's nothing wrong with enjoying books that make you laugh (I do) and it's fine for you to hate my review, though I would have appreciated it if you had been a little less rude about me personally.

However, I found this book positively offensive - the sort of thing that could turn me into a ranting feminist (which I am not). That is not to say that I condemn those who enjoy it.


Connie (Ava Catherine) Although I have not read this book, I appreciate your review. It was recommended on a thread as being humorous; therefore, I stopped and looked at it. I admit that I am not a fan of chick-lit, but I do like to vary my reading. A little light reading after several intense books is always good for the palate. I think you have explained this perfectly in your review, and I appreciate it so very much. I just want you to know how much I support you and your opinion.


Cecily Thank you, Connie.


message 12: by Scribble (new)

Scribble Orca Cecily wrote: "If it were written by a man, people would be outraged at how sexist it is."

Can we have T-shirts made with this as the slogan?


Cecily Scribble wrote: "Can we have T-shirts made with this as the slogan?"

Why not? I can recommend these people, and this is exactly the sort of thing they'd do, optionally with a cartoon or applique letters. They've only just started, and their website isn't live yet (though they do have PayPal), but they make custom t-shirts very inexpensively: https://www.facebook.com/HandmadeByZe...

(Full disclosure: I have no financial interest, but one of the people involved is a friend.)


Dolors Couldn't have said better Cecily!
My first and last also by Sophie Kinsella as well!


Christie Cloud Please explain to me how this book came across as so offensively sexist to you all? The main character was not pathetic, dumb, disorganized, or shallow. She was a young woman in her twenties trying to find her place in this world. Does beng confused about your career, your love life, and future mean you are dumb and pathetic?

So what if she had to rely on her parents for a little financially assistance that she was determined to pay back? Other than that she was independent and made it clear that she wasn't going to settle just to get "a rock on her finger".

Lyn, for some people it is just not enough to say "I didn't enjoy this book. I prefer..." and go on with their day. Using big words doesn't make a strong argument. I have encountered quite a few so-called intelligent people criticize chick lit and other "brainless" entertainment over the years. Finally I realized I just don't give a crap what they think.


Dolors Hi Christie!
I read that book some time ago and I don't remember neither the exact details of the plot nor of the characters.
But what stayed with me about this novel is that the story seemed too forced, too many coincidences, and that some of the situations and dialogues were highly implausible (like a bad movie, if you get my meaning).
We all know it's fiction, just a light reading, and that not being realistic doesn't mean that it won't be good, but in this case I remember a female character who lacked personality and that depended on other people to solve her own problems, I just didn't sympathize with her!
I might be wrong, of course, it's juts my opinion!
And of course, not every novel is for everybody, that's the good about having different tastes, we can see new points of views and get a better picture of our own opinions!


Christie Cloud Hi Dolors,
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and preferences. It's very true that most of the book is highly implausible. I just expect that from the majority of books I read. I enjoy humorous romance novels with situations and coincidences that would never happen in the real world.

My comment was mostly about the statements regarding sexism and that the main character was pathetic and so forth. I guess can see how someone may think she lacked personality. However, other people solving her problems for her????

I am not trying to be argumentative. I would really like to know how anyone found this book sexist and/or the main character weak and superficial. It would be most helpful to cite particular instances from the book.

Again, I have no problem with different opinions. I would just like to know how you came to those opinions.


message 18: by Miriam (last edited Mar 23, 2013 07:23PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Miriam Christie wrote: "Please explain to me how this book came across as so offensively sexist to you all? The main character was not pathetic, dumb, disorganized, or shallow. She was a young woman in her twenties trying..."

That's exactly what I thought the MC was. There's a lot of difference between being uncertain about what you want from your career, life etc and being incompetent. If I'd been as much of a ditz at 21 I would've been fired. I think it's sexist for Kinsella (and many other authors in this genre) to suggest that it's okay and even cute for women to be fluffy airheads whose real goal in life is snagging boyfriends and assembling outfits because it implies that career and intellectual concerns are secondary for females.


message 19: by Cecily (last edited Jun 04, 2013 01:09PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Cecily Christie wrote: "Please explain to me how this book came across as so offensively sexist to you all? ..."

It's nearly five years since I read it, but I remember being dubious and then increasingly annoyed at how patronising the tone of the book was.

There is nothing wrong with the protagonist being naive, inexperienced and uncertain, and there's nothing wrong with her wanting a relationship and wanting to look good. However, I seem to recall Kinsella tried to portray Whatshername as demeaningly shallow to the exclusion of almost everything else, and almost suggesting this was typical female behaviour.

However, I have no intention of rereading this to check the specifics!


Tammy Regis I loved this book. Read it a few times. I couldn't put it down each time I have read it. I do believe that this book of hers is better than all the other books she has written for instance the shopaholic books.


Cecily Thanks for the warning, Tammy: if this is her best, her others are clearly not for me. But each to their own.


message 22: by Cecily (last edited Jul 13, 2013 01:53AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Cecily Reply to a comment since deleted (by the person who posted it), but the points are still valid:

I'm sorry you found my review and some of the comments offensive: that's certainly not my intention. Nevertheless, I did find the book objectionable, and I stand by that.

Most women (including me) are naive, inexperienced and uncertain at some stage (some of us, for a long time); it's true of most men, too! There's nothing wrong with that, or with wanting a relationship and wanting to look good.

However, Kinsella seemed to suggest that the main and proper focus of womens' lives is trying - and largely failing, by playing up one's weaknesses and dependence on men - to achieve those things.

Your last point about it not being sexist because it's by a woman, is another about which we will have to disagree: on that basis, gay people couldn't be homophobic, for instance, which I don't believe to be the case.

Anyway, you don't come across as "pathetic, dumb, disorganized, and shallow" and I hope the post-university world proves happy, exciting and deserving of your undoubted talents.


Jason I've actually read all of her books, and this is close to the worst. But your criticisms are applicable in varying degrees to basically all of her works. I feel the way about them the way I tend to feel about Disney princess movies - enjoyable despite having terrible messages about how women should behave and what their life goals ought to be (generally, rescue by a highly unrealistic form of true love). I read them when I allow my brain to turn off and not soak up any of the information as having anything to do with real life.


Cecily Your Disney analogy makes sense, Jordan. I like something light to unwind, whether that be book, film or whatever, and similarly with food: it's all about variety, and we don't all like the same things all of the time.


message 25: by Kohila (last edited Nov 18, 2013 02:44AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kohila Ganesan My mother says to consume the good and leave the bad in trash~! But you know, i really enjoyed the book. The book was really fun and it said a good moral - Be apparent with your partner or hubby. I guess this moral has not being followed by many couples. So, whatever,i don't care, whether the book is filled with some sex scenes.

And this reviewer looks as if she doesn't like chick-lit genres and i guess that made her to dislike the book totally. Almost, everyone have some worse genres too....

Sorry for everyone if my review is rude. And Mrs.Cecily, please don't take it personally, maybe i am hurt a little to degrade my fav. books.And the book is in your overrated shelf, that too make me feel that you are making the book still over-degraded. Sorry, for this. And i guess that it is impossible to befriend you as your reviews apparently isn't the sort i like~ Kohila


message 26: by Cecily (last edited Nov 17, 2013 10:36AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Cecily Curious that you are "hurt" by the fact a stranger dislikes your favourite book, and yet you have no qualms in calling my review "crap", just because we happen to disagree.

Personally, I prefer to omit exaggerated insults.


Kohila Ganesan Cecily wrote: "Curious that you are "hurt" by the fact a stranger dislikes your favourite book, and yet you have no qualms in calling my review "crap", just because we happen to disagree.

Personally, I prefer t..."


Oh! I am sorry to hurt you but i am 13 years old, Maybe i am stubborn.Please don't take personally. I will surely delete the line. Again, sorry. I don't like to hurt some elder person.


Cecily It's fine. Don't worry about it.

We all have different tastes. I wish you lots of happiness enjoying your favourite books.


Kohila Ganesan Cecily wrote: "It's fine. Don't worry about it.

We all have different tastes. I wish you lots of happiness enjoying your favourite books."


:)


message 30: by Nente (new) - rated it 1 star

Nente I've read this book just as an experiment, and thanks for your review - I agree completely. The author suggests something like "if you're dumb, that's all right, go ahead and be dumb!" instead of "if you're dumb, it's all right, go ahead and learn".


Anuradha While I did personally enjoy the book quite a bit, I do get your point, Cecily. Naive, ditzy female characters don't do the world much good, and this does set feminism back some. That said, your final paragraph cracked me up. :'D


Cecily Nente wrote: "I've read this book just as an experiment, and thanks for your review - I agree completely..."

Thanks, Nente (if you're still here!).


Cecily Anuradha wrote: "While I did personally enjoy the book quite a bit, I do get your point, Cecily...
your final paragraph cracked me up"


Thank you, Anuradha. I'm glad you found enjoyment in the book, without your identity taking too much of a bashing. I'm even happier you liked my final paragraph.


Anuradha Haha! Yeah, people are right about the Shopaholic series. And her other book, Remember Me, in which the heroine changes everything about herself for, well, god knows what. Found myself disliking that one.


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