My girl friend raved about Confessions of a Shopaholic and the others in the series a few years ago when she first read them. But I wasn’t interested in chick-lit back then so she wasn’t able to convince me to read them. Then they made a movie based on the book and I thought that it must be really good. So I thought I’d give it a try. Also, the book just came out in pocket size and it was on sale at Superstore. Besides, I thought that I could probably relate to the main character. Well, I’m not really a shopaholic, but Rebecca (Becky) Bloomwood was deep in debt, and so was I.
I have had a love-hate relationship with this series.
That’s probably because I sometimes see myself in Becky. First of all, she is a financial journalist. She tells people how to organize their money but there she is, accumulating all these Visa bills, unable to pay them, and she’s always trying to avoid her bank manager who has been constantly trying to get an appointment with her to settle her bank overdraft. How can I relate to that? Well, here I am with an accounting degree. Yes, I do know how to balance my bank accounts. And I’m supposed to be able to analyze my financial status. Well, I’m able to do that, too. I know how to analyze my financial status. And my analysis is that- it was in a bad state. I was deep in debt, I was barely making the minimum monthly payments, I didn’t know how to get out of the hole and I was so stressed out. But that will be another post. Today, we’re talking about the Shopaholic series.
The first book in the series, Confessions of a Shopaholic, introduces us to Rebecca (Becky) Bloomwood. It starts with a letter from Endwich Bank in London (that’s where Becky lives) congratulating her from recently graduating from university and offering her an overdraft account of 2,000 pounds. Now, shouldn’t one be offered such an account only after they get their first job, when they are already earning money? But, sadly to say, this is the reality that faces young people today. They don’t know any better and these bank companies are taking advantage of that. The second letter from Endwich Bank, which is dated two months later, informs Becky that she has exceeded her limit and her balance stands at over 3,000 pounds. In the third letter, we learn that Becky wasn’t able to get to the bank to discuss her financial situation because “she had broken her leg.” The reader will realize that that is just an excuse.
In Confessions of a Shopaholic, we are reading Becky’s thoughts. One thing that I like about it is that her thoughts are candid and honest and a lot of times funny. How many times have I also thought about something or someone that I dare not say out loud for fear of offending the other person or sounding rude? But if you just say it to yourself, it sounds funny. What I don’t like about Becky, and I know she means well, is that when she finds herself in a sticky situation, she tries to pretend she knows what she’s talking about instead of just fessing up. And then there’s also her debt situation. She’s accumulating these huge Visa bills, but she still keeps on shopping. She ignores her bills, hides them in her drawers and even throws out her letters from her bank and credit card companies. But of course, she couldn’t help it. She’s a shopaholic and she even describes what it feels like when she enters a shop. She lusts for things and she experiences a high, an exhilarating feeling, when she goes shopping. As I have mentioned a few times, I also experience some kind of high when I do my grocery shopping.
And so the reader is transported to Becky’s world as she tries to reason out her spending. Like how she thinks a bottle of wine is essential, or how buying a suit that was on sale – 30% off – is actually saving money. She did try to CB (cut back) and MMM (make more money), but when her efforts fail, she finds comfort in – shopping. And the cycle goes on and on.
Then a big story arises and the break that Becky’s waiting for finally comes. Becky realizes that there are people who think that she’s a joke and now she’s going to try her best to prove them wrong. She feels guilty about giving her neighbours a neglectful advice. She does a journalistic investigation and writes an explosive article.
But just when I thought that she had learned her lesson, there she is at the end of the story ordering sunglasses on TV. I was turned off by that.
I wasn’t so sure if I’d like to continue on reading the Shopaholic series and so I read different book. I really liked A Thousand Splendid Suns, but it has such a serious and heavy theme and I thought that I needed something easy and light to read next. So I went on ahead and read the next Shopaholic book.
In Shopaholic Takes Manhattan, Becky goes to New York with her now boyfriend Luke Brandon. She had a few mishaps there but in the end, she sort of redeemed herself. So I like how this one ended. And I probably should have stopped with this book.
But I went on reading the next book, Shopaholic Ties the Knot. What can I say? I sort of fell in love with Luke Brandon. Okay he’s a workaholic but I like the way he makes Becky feel. She feels so secured with him. But then again I realized that Becky’s addiction to shopping isn’t being cured by being with Luke. He’s wealthy, you know. He has his own PR company and Becky’s getting away with her shopping addiction because Luke’s got money.
I started to get impatient with Becky again but somehow, I just felt that I wanted to know what happens to Becky and Luke next. Now that Becky and Luke are married, I wanted to find out how a joint bank account will work. With Becky’s shopping, how will Luke react to all these expenses that will show up in their bank account? Also, I read in the back cover that in Shopaholic & Sister, Becky has found a long lost sister, but her sister hates shopping. But does having a thifty sister help Becky stop shopping? No need to tell you the answer.
Because there is a fifth book called, Shopaholic & Baby. And this is probably not much of a spoiler and a surprise, but Becky still loves shopping. And now, she’s not just shopping for herself, but for the baby as well. This is where I got really disappointed after reading the fifth book. Becky’s shopping addiction hasn’t been resolved. Unless, the author, Sophie Kinsella, is planning to write a final book where Becky will really finally wake up. And then it will be an inspiration to those shopaholics who are deep in debt and don’t have a wealthy spouse who can bail them out. Although, I wouldn’t need that book to inspire me because I have finally got out of debt, well, sort of. Maybe I will write about that to inspire others. Well, anyway, back to the book. The only redeeming part that I found in the fifth book (or final maybe?) is Luke’s answer to Venetia when she asked him why he married Becky, “this mindless consumer little girlie … All she cares about is her shopping, her clothes, and her girlfriends.”
Luke said, “The first time I ever saw Becky Bloomwood, she was asking a bank marketing department why they didn’t produce checkbook covers in different colors. The next year, they did produce checkbook covers in different colors. Becky’s instincts match no one else’s…. Her mind goes to places no one else’s does…Yes, she shops. Yes, she does crazy things. But she makes me laugh. She makes me enjoy life. And I love her more than anything else in the world.”
And then I realized those are exactly the reasons why I kept reading the Shopaholic books. I got sucked into Becky’s crazy world and she made me laugh. It was a great escape from my own crazy world.
Now, let’s talk about the movie, Confessions of a Shopaholic.
I had a huge problem when I watched the movie the first time. I shook my head a lot. They squished the first two books into one movie. There are a lot of changes and it seems at times like a totally different story that was just loosely based on the Shopaholic Series. First of all, Luke is the only one who’s British in this movie. Then the movie was totally set entirely in America, mostly in New York. For the most part of the movie, Luke is working at a company called Dantay-West and then she hires Rebecca Bloomwood as a journalist. In the book, Luke has owned his own PR company, Brandon Communications, since the beginning and Rebecca is working as a financial journalist in a different company, Successful Savings, not working for him.
I also had a problem with the casting. I think Isla Fisher fits the character of Becky Bloomwood, but other than that . . . Hugh Dancy is of course, British, so that was a plus. But I pictured Luke Brandon to be a much taller guy and someone who exudes confidence, and at the same time, charm. Yeah, there are a few scenes where I found Hugh Dancy charming. Let’s not take that away from him. And then, Becky’s parents – I think both John Goodman and Joan Cusack look much too young to be Becky’s parents. I have pictured them to be a lot older. They are both retired after all.
Elinor Sherman, Luke’s mother, was mentioned but didn’t appear in the movie. And what about Janice and Martin Webster? They are missing in the movie. They are very important characters in the first book. When Becky realized that they were tricked out of their investment, Becky investigated and exposed their bank. I also missed Becky and Luke’s debate on Good Morning Coffee. These are my two favourite parts in the first book and they didn’t make it to the movie.
Some of the changes that appeared in the movie:
Becky joins a Shopaholic Anonymous group. It doesn’t seem realistic. There’s no such thing, is there? But then again, maybe the producers included this in the movie in an attempt to solve Becky’s shopping addiction. But it didn’t work on Becky. Instead, she sort of influenced the people in the group to go shopping again, which was kind of funny, really.
Becky assumes the pseudonym of The Girl in the Green Scarf. I sort of like the idea, but why green scarf? It is some kind of blue in the book, and she fantasizes about herself as the Girl in the Denny & George Scarf, not the Girl in the Green Scarf. Why did they change it? Green doesn’t really go with most of the colors. I think they should have stuck with blue, which would easily match better with the other colors. I think.
Derek Smeath is portrayed as a mean guy. Okay, Becky’s told her parents that he was a stalker, but that was a lie. She actually got to know him personally and found him to be a nice person. She even referred to him as Sweetie Smeathie in the end.
I read the first book, Confessions of a Shopaholic a second time and also rented the movie a second time, because I wanted to write/finish these reviews. I now realize why the series became a bestseller. It’s smartly written and it’s funny and I think everybody, even those who are not shopaholics, can relate to Becky. And after watching the movie a second time, I realize it’s not that bad. But I still think they should have included Janice and Martin’s story there and made Derek Smeath a nicer guy.
I’ve read that the movie received mostly negative reviews. It came out at a time when the economy is down and there’s financial crisis everywhere. Not a good time to release a movie about shopping and wasting money.
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