By: Sophie Kinsella
Narrator: Fiona Hardingham
Penguin Random House Audio | Imprint: Random House Audio
Genre: Fiction – Humorous – General
Release Date: February 13, 2018 (available for pre-order)
11 Hours and 30 Minutes
I voluntarily reviewed an advance readers copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
A witty and emotionally charged novel that delves into the heart of a marriage, and how those we love and think we know best can sometimes surprise us the most—from #1 New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella
After ten years together, Sylvie and Dan have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, and beautiful twin girls, and they communicate so seamlessly they finish each other’s sentences. They have a happy marriage and believe they know everything there is to know about each other. Until it’s casually mentioned to them that they could be together for another sixty-eight years . . . and panic sets in.
They decide to bring surprises into their marriage to keep it fresh and fun. But in their pursuit of Project Surprise Me—from unexpected gifts to restaurant dates to sexy photo shoots—mishaps arise, with disastrous and comical results. Gradually, surprises turn to shocking truths. And when a scandal from the past is uncovered, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other at all.
With a colorful cast of eccentric characters, razor-sharp observations, and her signature wit and charm, Sophie Kinsella presents a humorous yet moving portrait of a marriage—its intricacies, comforts, and complications. Surprise Me reveals that hidden layers in a close relationship are often yet to be discovered.
This story starts off like normal chick-lit: A spoiled girl, and a husband hiding something. He must be doing something bad, right? Well, maybe. Sylvie comes across as not unbalanced but spoiled and as having idolized her late father. It may be a bit of a “coming of age” story but, if so, then it demonstrates that we “come of age” over and over throughout our lives.
That is not unusual – in my family, and among my friends, it is not an unknown phenomenon. Kinsella employs symbolism with subtlety. You don’t realize you’re reading something more than chick lit until you begin to feel conflict about the characters. This is the “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” bit.
Everything in Sylvie’s life, except her twin daughters, is about the past: her mother hasn’t moved on in her widowhood, her job is at an obscure historical house museum owned an run by an older woman who has not been interested in modern office practices, social media or, making enough money to cover expenses.
Everyone is coddling Sylvie to the point where it seems they are screwing her over, or at least screwing someone else. But, like most processes of awakening it is slow and accompanied by an nasty alarm clock with an even nastier snooze button. The SURPRISE ME effect is about how Sylvie thinks she and Dan need to counter potential boredom with the institution of marriage. This is actually comic relief in what could be a depressing deluge of a crumbling relationship.
It is at this point you may think, so what, there are thousands of books with cheating husbands and the great growth through kicking the guy out. Stick it out and you’ll understand my belief in the story’s salience.
Fiona Hardingham is the perfect voice for Kinsella’s work: effervescent and posh; also, for Sylvie’s voice sweet, naive and confused by what seems to be going on around her.
In the end, and with the theme of salience, Kinsella presents us with the iconoclastic – the destruction of idols, and not one from which we easily recover.
Insightful, even as it maintains the lightness that gives it the feeling of chick lit, this is definitely a worthwhile read. It, and Fiona Hardingham’s narration, made me want to go to Audible and listen to any Kinsella I haven’t yet heard or read.