Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella

Can You Keep A Secret? by Sophie Kinsella

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover (available in trade), 357 pages, 2004

Rating: 8/10

Reason for Reading: All of the Shopaholic books were fun brain-candy reads.

Synopsis: Emma Corrigan is a twenty-five year old marketing assistant with a few secrets. Harmless, of course. She’d rather wear underwear two sizes too small than tell her boyfriend her real weight, and she’d prefer people didn’t know she was hiding celebrity magazines inside her business journals. On a plane ride home from a business trip, however, she spills all her secrets to the American stranger sitting beside her. But when he shows up on Monday morning as her boss, knowing how she waters her hated co-worker’s plant with orange juice, Emma is horrified…and the situation promises to get worse.

Why you should read this book: Can You Keep a Secret? is such a fun read you might find yourself reading the whole book in one go. Continued humour draws you into Emma’s life, as her flaws lead to empathetic laughter. Watching what Emma’s little white lies do to her state of mind is interesting, as well as seeing what she’ll resort to when she’s unable to blur the truth.

Why you should avoid this book: The characters in the book fall into the trap of being too obviously good or too obviously wicked. Kinsella might as well have started off the book with a list of people the reader should like and a list of the characters they should hate, because no one does anything unexpected, which would have been nice for creating some suspense. She might have stamped “Underdog” on Emma’s forehead while she was at it – she’s a girl who can’t get a promotion and frequents second-hand clothing stores; she’s surrounded by her lawyer roommate, her other roommate that never seems to work yet has a closet stuffed with designer clothes, a successful and bitchy cousin who owns her own company, and she’s overlooked by her own mom and dad, on top of all that. All together now: Awww.

Opening paragraph:

Of course I have secrets.
Of course I do. Everyone has a few secrets. It’s completely normal.
I’m not talking about big, earth-shattering secrets. Not the-president-is-planning-to-bomb-Japan-and-only-Will-Smith-can-save-the-world type secrets. Just normal, everyday little secrets.

Fabulous quotes:

‘I’m in the middle of a history of fourteenth-century Europe,’ says Nick.
‘I’m just rereading Proust,’ says Caroline with a modest shrug. ‘In the original French.’
‘Ah.’ Jack Harper nods, his face unreadable. ‘And…Emma, is it? What are you reading?’
‘Um, actually…’ I swallow, playing for time.
I cannot say Horoscopes for Lovers. Even though it is actually very good. Quick. What’s a serious book?
‘You were reading Great Expectations, weren’t you, Emma?’ says Artemis. ‘For your book club.’
‘Yes!’ I say in relief. ‘Yes, that’s right -‘
And then I stop abruptly as I meet Jack Harper’s gaze.
Inside my head, my own voice from the plane is babbling away innocently.
…just skimmed the back and pretended I’d read it…

There’s complete silence as Mum opens the envelope.
‘Oh, my goodness!’ she says, taking out a gold-embossed brochure. ‘What’s this? Le Spa Meridien?’ Something falls into her hands, and she lifts it. ‘Tickets to Paris? Kerry!’
She’s ruined my present.
‘For both of you,’ adds Kerry a little smugly. ‘Uncle Brian, too.’
‘Kerry!’ says Dad in delight. ‘You marvel!’
‘It is supposed to be rather good,’ says Kerry with a complacent smile. ‘Five-star accomodation…The chef has three Michelin stars.’
‘I don’t believe this!’ says Mum. She’s leafing excitedly through the brochure. ‘Look at the swimming pool! Look at the gardens!’
My flowery card is lying, forgotten, amid the wrapping paper.
Suddenly I feel close to tears. She knew. She knew.
‘Kerry, you knew,’ I suddenly blurt out, unable to stop myself. ‘I told you I was giving Mum a spa treatment. I told you! We had that conversation about it, months ago. In the garden!’
‘Did we?’ says Kerry casually. ‘I don’t remember.’

Also recommended: Divas Las Vegas by Belinda Jones; Bridget Jones by Helen Fielding; See Jane Date by Melissa Senate.

Also by this author: Confessions of a Shopaholic; Shopaholic Takes Manhattan; Shopaholic Ties the Knot; Shopaholic and Sister; The Undomestic Goddess; Shopaholic & Baby.

Fun tidbit: Sophie Kinsella’s kid sister Gemma Townley is the author of When in Rome, also in the chick-lit genre.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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