Kay Elizabeth's Reviews > Holly's Inbox

Holly's Inbox by Holly Denham
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Feb 17, 2010

it was amazing

Holly’s Inbox should come with a warning – “anything you can’t do one handed, get it done before you settle down to read.” Why? Because this hilarious book is not leaving your clutches until it’s finished. Holly’s Inbox by Holly Denham (ISBN: 9781402219030; Sourcebooks Casablanca) will be glued to your hands until its unexpected conclusion. This tale of Holly Denham’s life, a London receptionist at her first day on a new job, is incredibly smart and funny.

I’m not a laugh out loud type of book reader. Barely a chuckle escapes my lips when I read humor, no matter how uproarious I find the content. I keep my jocularity behind my teeth. Which explains why my husband kept popping his head around the door, saying “What are you laughing at?!” with a surprised look when he saw I had a book in my hand. But with Holly’s Inbox, it’s impossible not to.

This romantic comedy is very clever. The humor veers from the dry, sarcasm dripping kind to slapstick comedy without skipping a beat. The most outstandingly creative thing about this book is the style of its composition. Holly’s Inbox is told entirely with emails flying back and forth to receptionist Holly. There are no lengthy descriptions nor scene setting preambles. Everything that unfolds, every character you grow to love, like or loathe, you discover via those emails.

I’ll be honest. I would never have thought well rounded characters could be created when emails alone are used to tell a story. Bill Surie, the author who uses the Holly Denham pseudonym, has knocked that assumption right out of my head and pulled this format off impeccably. To my knowledge this is a completely unique style of writing and one, given the influence of the Net on our daily lives, that’s long overdue. (Expect copycat writers to flood the market with similar attempts in the near future. You heard it here first. But I guarantee you they won’t be this good. )

Gossip, sly office politics, manipulation of employees and personality clashes – they’re all part and parcel of working in large companies. In Holly’s Inbox, you’ll recognize many of the usual suspects from the corporate world: the scary superior, the pretty Jekyll and Hyde and the office’s VP heartthrob who’s a bit of a mystery. Holly has to handle them all. On top of everything else, Holly’s trying to keep a secret under wraps. Throw in her well-meaning but overbearing mother’s demands for attention, her eccentric grandmother’s misguided kindness in signing Holly up for everything online, and her two siblings’ personal ongoing dramas and you have a laugh-a-minute. Holly’s two best friends and co-receptionist are only an email away, keeping her relatively sane one moment and driving her even more crazy the next. You just cannot resist reading this hilariously compulsive novel.

Holly’s Inbox is the first time I’ve read a book written by a man under a female pen name. I’d still be none the wiser if Sourcebooks hadn’t told me. I would love to know how the author became so good at delving into the female psyche. A master of the wry throwaway comment, Mr. Surie captures so many female insecurities and moments of self doubt with the character of Holly in such a funny manner that you can’t help but laugh.

Bill credits being the owner of a real life London placement service for reception staff as a direct inspiration, but I think he’s too modest. He absolutely nails the wonderful characters to perfection and I doubt that a career choice alone is the reason for it. This author is very talented, very witty and I hope is compiling a sequel to this as we speak. I can tell I’m going to become as addicted to this stroke of genius that is Holly Denham as I am to caffeine.

I’ve saved the best news until last. Want a sneak peek at Holly’s life? Then visit her inbox at http://hollysinbox.com/. That’s where this novel all began and the seeds were sown of a girl’s life you’ll find you just won’t be able to get enough of. There are plenty of emails there to tempt you. In 2007, Bill’s site peaked with 90,000 visitors checking in, all wanting to find out what was going to happen next to our heroine. Don’t say I didn’t warn you when you find yourself doing the same!

Fantastic, heart warming and a truly novel stylistic approach. You’ll love it. 5 stars.

(Disclosure: I received this book for free for review purposes from the book's publishers. This arrangement doesn't influence my reviews.)

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