Ivy, $6.99, ISBN 0-8041-1460-9
Contemporary Fiction, 1999
Here’s how to write a tired played-out generic chick-lit thing, courtesy of Laura Landvik and Patty Jane’s House of Curl:
- Always put a dotty old mother-in-law (the narrator’s granny) that sprouts warm, nostalgic, homespun rural nuggets of wisdom. Remember the good, matronly, womanly ideal of femininity and the good old days ultimately belongs in the kitchen.
- Two sisters or four childhood friends (this book has two sisters). Never successful in love until the last few pages.
- The heroines must undergo three phrases:
- Blooming Love – the first too-good-to-be-true romance, ultimately ill-fated because that Mr Perfect will either die or turn out a cheating no-good scum.
- The Degradation Phase where said women do really degrading nonsense to themselves. Usually by withdrawing from the world and never bathing until they regain some senses, or getting drunk and sleeping with many unworthy men. Have the next Perfect Man step in to redeem the women. That’s truth, realism, and poignancy for you.
- The Self-Discovery Phase, where – surprise! – the ex comes back either on his knees and begs heroine to take her back or in a severely handicapped state, and have that silly woman actually has to choose between Mr Perfect and Mr Scum. But some people out there believe this silliness is a reflection of the kind womanly heart of females, so I guess it’s a good thing. Silly me, I used to think it’s a sign of a total absence of either brain cells or backbone! Oh, I’m so dotty!
- Critics pooh-pooh at happy endings without a price to pay. This price is usually a disease, preferably cancer. Have the narrator, a teenage girl, conclude the tale with some genuinely heartwarming nuggets of wisdom that somehow have to come from the blender-hugging Granny and not the (presumably inferior) modern, liberated mother and aunties.
- Add in massive dose of humor, and pray for the best that said reader doesn’t realize the book is just the same as 1,000 books out there written by women, shelved under mainstream fiction.