"Me Blackberry Fool, You Apple Tart" by Amelia Slocombe is chick lit, which is not usually my genre of choice - but it caught my eye because one of the characters is a lawyer in a London law firm, which happens to be what I do for a living too. I have also made a bit of a thing of trying to be a bit more open-minded when it comes to books which I have a tendency to dismiss as "not my thing", especially when it comes to free fiction by self-published authors (as in this case).
Having said that, I have read (and thoroughly enjoyed) books like "Bridget Jones' Diary" - which I suppose is the "Ur-Chick Lit text". Or could it in fact be a "post-feminist novel concerned with feminism in contemporary western societies" with allusions to the writing of Simone de Beauvoir, Helene Cixous and Julia Kristeva, as suggested here (or in numerous other academic commentaries)? Hmmm, somehow I suspect that these issues were not at the forefont of Helen Fielding's mind when she wrote it - and if you picked up a book describing itself as chick lit only to find that it was in fact a rather po-faced tract about post-feminism, you might feel you had been ever so slightly slightly missold.
Anyway, assuming that the main point of "Me Blackberry Fool, You Apple Tart" is not really to explore the crisis of masculinity in western society but to make its readers laugh, I think it succeeds very well. Isla, the main character, works ridiculous hours for a probably fairly ridiculous salary in the finance practice of a City law firm. I don't have much experience of finance law myself (frankly, I would rather stick pins in my eyes than spend most of my waking hours drafting loan agreements) - but I can vouch for the parts of the book dealing with various goings-on in Isla's office (and outside it when it comes to the office party etc). Happily, these focus rather more on the weird (but in my experience all too plausible) behaviours of some of Isla's colleagues and less on the finer points of the Loan Market Association's standard clauses for facility agreements (even though I am sure these are a thoroughly satisfying read if you like that sort of thing).
Isla's best friend, Rachel, works in the marketing department of a firm that sells plumbing and toilet accessories - but makes up for the lack of glamour inherent in this job by having a (rather useless) boyfriend who also happens to be the best friend of a Premier League footballer. And this is really the lynchpin of the plot, as the footballer takes a bit of a shine to Isla, who is already in a long term relationship. Anyway, I won't reveal any more of the story, but it is very readable, the plot moves ahead at a decent pace and most importantly, it is genuinely funny. I also enjoyed some of the secondary characters, like Isla's Dad (a man devoted to the infinite culinary possibilities of mince) and Rachel's mildly psychotic Mum.
Although it is firmly in the chick lit genre, it's a bit different in the sense that it consists entirely of exchanges of emails and texts - so you could see it as a sort of contemporary version of the epistolary novel. A few reviewers appear to have had a problem with this, arguing that the characters (particularly Isla, given her very long working hours) couldn't possibly have had the time to write such lengthy messages to one another - and that this alleged lack of plausibility completely ruined the entire novel for them. But for me, it was far more important that the characters and events portrayed in the novel came across as believable and funny - and because they were, I was quite willing to suspend any disbelief I may have had about the length of some of the emails.
At the time of this review, "Me Blackberry Fool, You Apple Tart" was available as a free ebook from Smashwords or as a paid-for ebook or hard copy edition from Amazon. If you want to see what others thought of it, it has quite a few positive reviews on Amazon and also on goodreads.
Finally, hats off to the author for managing to get this article about her novel into the London Evening Standard no less (in a world where most newspapers have cut back their coverage of fiction quite substantially, most authors, whether self-published or not, would kill for that kind of publicity - alright, maybe not actually kill, but you know what I mean). From a self-publishing perspective, this interview with her may also be of interest.
You might also be interested in:
- Single to Morden by Spike Evans - an excellent free comic novel
- Retirement Projects by Charles Hibbard - another excellent free comic novel
- Confessions of a sexist reader
Posted by Paul Samael. Posted In : Book reviews