20 Jun 2011
Review: "Notting Hell"
Normally I don't read a lot of chick lit but since I have been spending a lot of time lying around eating pain killers and trying not to use my newly operated foot, I have had plenty of time to read but not having the energy to read anything too heavy. So I settled down with Rachel Johnson's "Notting Hell", a comedy about the self-obsessed, vain people living on a communal garden in Notting Hill. Rachel Johnson is the editor of the "Lady" magazine and from her bio on Wikipedia and articles in various media, she sounds like a lady who knows about the people that she is writing about in this novel.
The real main character in "Notting Hell" is actually the Notting Hill neighborhood. Now I've never lived here myself but according to this book, the neighborhood is defined by bankers and other professionals that leave early in the morning and return home to sleep and their high-maintenance wives who spend their days lunching (on something fat-free), exercising and shopping - and of course on raising their accomplished children. Sounds horrible doesn't it? Well, just wait till you read this book, I was so repulse by the people in it... especially the narrators of which there are two.
Meet Mimi. Mother of three, wife of Ralph (who btw. sounds pretty amazing) and dumber than a box-full-of-rocks. Living in Notting Hill defines her identity and justifies her entire life even though she and her sweet husband are living way beyond their means to stay in the attractive post code. Mimi is friends with Clare, her neighbor and the other narrator of this story. Clare is a neat-freak who loves gardening and who really wants a child but apparently cannot become pregnant. She is married to a successful ecotect (i.e. a fancy and expensive architect) and spends her days in the communal garden taking care of the flowers. Clare is a lot easier to like than Mimi even though she is a bit snobbish.
Mimi and Clare tell the story of life on a communal garden where everyone sleeps with everyone else's wife/husband and where a race to ensare the new millionaire in the garden means that the women all get their claws out. Charming. Or maybe not.
Now the people in this book are really not likeable. Mimi made me cringe and at times I wish she wasn't a narrator because it was impossible for me to like her. Clare is okay though and Mimi's husband is a sweetheart but most of the other characters range from slightly annoying to outright idiots. The plot and the descriptions of the neighborhood is hilarious though. It is the details that make it so funny, the try-hard attitude of minor characters and the constant greed that all of the characters represent. It is actually a really funny book and if you like chick lit where the characters are not very likeable, you will probably like this on.
Read it if: you subscribe to "Tatler", "Vanity Fair" or you enjoy reading the Times Rich List and imagining what goes on behind closed doors.