22 September 2007

Book Review: How to Kill Your Husband (and other handy household hints) by Kathy Lette

New Year’s Reading Resolutions #18

How to Kill Your Husband Ever since university, Cassandra, Jasmine and Hannah have been the best of friends. But that friendship threatens to break apart when Jazz is arrested for the murder of her husband. David Studlands was a doctor who toured the world’s trouble spots treating the poor. He was also a philandering cad who had mortgaged the house out from under his wife and son to fund his research. Now he’s disappeared off a beach on the other side of the world, and Jazz’s ex-con toyboy has dumped her right in it. Desperate to prove her innocence, Jazz sends Cassie to tell her lawyer the whole story, from the disastrous twentieth anniversary dinner onwards. Along the way it’s not only Jazz’s relationship which suffers; Cassie and Hannah also see their marriages begin to fall apart. And whether Jazz gets off or not, their friendship may never be the same again.

I had high hopes for this book, but unfortunately they weren’t met. It was a good premise, but my interest soon flagged in the face of a whole lot of the characters gossiping about their marriages and sex lives. (Is this really what it’s like to be middle-aged and married? If so, I’m glad I’m perpetually single.) When Jazz found out just what her husband had been up to behind her back she got angry and bitter, as you would, but I quickly got fed up with her incessant bitchiness, which was directed not only at David but others as well. Hannah had little part to play in the first two-thirds of the book; and while there were a few genuine laughs, I didn’t find it that funny overall. The one-liners were laid on with a trowel, to the point where I thought, “Okay! I get it! You’re witty! Now can we please move on?” And Cassie was one of my pet literary peeves: the chick-lit wimp. She freely admitted she had no spine, agreed with whatever Jazz and Hannah said, even when they contradicted each other, and let her husband relegate all the housework to her. I began to wonder if there’s not some bizarre law of the universe preventing the creation of chick-lit heroines with backbones. (Then I remembered the fantastic Behaving Badly by Isobel Wolff, which suggests that there’s not.)

It did have its good points, though. There were some quite wonderful moments towards the end, when the various dastardly men and unscrupulous rivals (those still alive, at least) got their comeuppances. I particularly enjoyed the scene where Cassie confronted her boss and couldn’t help but be pleased for her (both because of the successful outcome, and because she discovered her spine). I also liked Jazz’s various ideas for, not so much committing murder, but increasing the risks in her husband’s already risky lifestyle (mis-sized bulletproof vest, for example). While for me it was only an average read, someone who’s had experience of the whole marriage-kids-middle age thing might like it and relate to it more.

I’d hate to write off an entire genre. So ... all recommendations of chick-lit books without wimpy main characters will be gratefully accepted.

Rating: C


StuckInABook said...

Shan't pick this one up then... though I probably wouldn't have done anyway. Kathy Lette is one of those names I'm forever seeing in charity shops, and not one which makes me lunge for the books. Ho-hum. I haven't read much chick-lit (shockingly) but there does seem to be a distinct leaning to stereotype in those I have read...

Eva said...

Too bad it didn't work out...at least it has a good title. :)

The only chick lit I've ever read is Bridget Jones' Diary, and I ended up chucking it across the room. It made a very satisfying clunk when it hit the wall.

However, Dorothy Sayers has a very strong female character in her Lord Peter Whimsey mystery series. Her name is Harriet Vane, and she first appears in Strong Poison. Don't know if you've read them, but I find them quite enjoyable. :)

Anonymous said...

Ugh! Sounds like it would annoy the heck out of me! I hope your next read is better.

Amat Libris said...

StuckInABook: Having read this, I think I know why her books end up in the charity shops! They do tend to all read alike, don't they? And I'm somewhat impressed that the male of the species has been picking up chick-lit at all.

Eva: I actually liked BJD, but I can relate to the temptation to hurl a book at the nearest wall. When I read the debut of local chick-lit star Rebecca Sparrow I vey nearly did just that. (But alas, it was library property, so I could't.) And I have read some Sayers books - all hopelessly out of series order. One day I must read them all, from the start.

Heather: So far, yes. In the case of the Tolkien, very much yes. Why can't I have an imagination that good?

Newer Posts Older Posts Home
Header image shows detail of A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, c. 1776