Beyond the Blonde by Kathleen Flynn-Hui

Beyond The Blonde by Kathleen Flynn-Hui

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover, 277 pages, 2005

Rating: 9/10

Reason for Reading: I’m a natural blonde that dyes her hair…blonde. So it just seemed appropriate, really.

Synopsis: Georgia Watkins never wanted anything more than to join her mother’s small but popular salon in Weekeepeemie, New Hampshire, until she finds out that ‘small but popular’ doesn’t quite bring in enough cash to pay off the mortgage. With money threats looming over her family, she decides to go to school and then head to New York to become a colourist at Jean-Luc. For something that’s ‘just hair,’ there sure is a lot involved – pacifying rich clients, earning a place on the floor, temperamental salon owners, and the fear of slipping up and making a very important woman into a very angry woman. Georgia might be living in the city that never sleeps, but who has time for a personal life when your boss expects your job to be your life?

Why you should read this book: What woman hasn’t looked in the mirror and wished for a big change in her life – preferably something that can be accomplished solely through a revitalizing hair-cut and an attitude-changing dye job? Georgia Watkins is the woman that helps make that happen for some of New York’s most important women, and reading about it – the ritzy society, the businesswomen that wouldn’t dream of slowing down, and, of course, the gossip and scandal – is a great way to spend an afternoon or two. What makes Beyond the Blonde such a fun read is Georgia’s (mostly) unbiased views of everyone. There’s no celebrity worship, or alternately, looking down her nose at people with so much time and money that they’ve ceased to be reasonable human beings (making requests for matching dog/owner highlights generally being considered unreasonable behaviour). A fun, trashy read, sans the garbage writing (that would be your door I’m knocking on, Candace Bushnell). Beyond the Blonde is a book you’ll want to pick up when you need a few laughs to knock you out of a slump, especially considering Georgia’s determination to face change bravely, over and over again.

Why you should avoid this book: Beyond the Blonde is a consistently engaging read, but the goal here is entertainment, not high art. While most fans of chick-lit would enjoy this book, it would definitely help if you were craving a behind-the-scenes peek at high society. And if you’re cruising for celebrity gossip, you’ll have to assume the clients really are based on someone and piece it together for yourself – most of the clients have names like ‘Mrs. K’ or ‘EFH’ (editor from hell).

Opening paragraph:

I would have to say that it all began – or, rather, it all began to end – the morning Faith Honeycomb passed out on the floor of the Salon Jean-Luc. Up until then it had been a busy day. As in crazy busy. I was thirty-four years old, but in nearly a decade as a senior colorist I had rarely seen the salon so completely insane. The frenzy was brought on by that crowning event in the New York City social season: the Pink and Purple Charity Ball. This particular ball spanned all age groups: Park Avenue dowagers brought their thousand-dollar tickets and invited their granddaughters, who took the afternoon off from Spence or Brearley or Dalton to get their hair done. Socialites arrived by chauffeured Mercedes sedans starting the moment the salon opened, and we were slightly understaffed because some of the stylists were out making house calls.

Fabulous quotes:

‘That was Edgar’s first antique.’ Roxanne pointed to a mahogany side piece. ‘He bought it when he was twenty-one years old. Seventy-five thousand dollars, and he was putting his boxer shorts in there. Can you imagine?’
We all shook our heads. This, at least, was true. We couldn’t imagine it. I trailed after Roxanne up the stairs, vacuumed so that our steps left impressions in the plush, cream-colored carpet, as if we were walking through freshly fallen snow. Roxanne was talking, and though I kept nodding and pretending to listen, my mind had wandered four hundred miles north. I wished I had a hidden camera – or at least a tape recorder – so I could share this with Doreen. I mean, she was never going to believe it. I had called her the day before to tell her I had been invited to a client’s house for the weekend.
‘Roxanne who?’ Doreen had asked. My mother never read the society pages. Her idea of reading the paper was scanning the police blotter in the Weekeepeemie Register.

I left my client with her head in the sink and bleach on her eyebrows, said a little prayer, and walked quickly to the reception area, where dozens more clients sat, some of them flipping through that week’s magazines and others watching with unveiled curiosity as the salon’s famous head receptionist, Sweetie, engulfed Doreen in a full-on drag queen bear hug.
‘I never thought I’d see the day!’ Sweetie exclaimed. ‘Georgia Watkins has a mom!’
Over Sweetie’s red satin-encased bicep, my mother shot me a pleading look. I feared Sweetie might be cutting off her blood supply.

Also recommended: Shopaholic & Sister by Sophie Kinsella; She’s Got Issues by Stephanie Lessing; Conversations with the Fat Girl by Liza Palmer; My Very Own Murder by Josephine Carr.

Also by this author: Beyond the Blonde is Flynn-Hui’s first novel.

Fun tidbit: Flynn-Hui is a colourist at Salon AKS, where she works alongside her husband, Kao Hui, a top stylist and part owner of the salon.

Would I read more by this author? If it’s as fun as this one was, I’m there.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

Comments are closed.