One of these days, we’ll simply have to run out of scenarios on which to hang a romantic comedy, won’t we? We’ve had weddings and funerals, long distance and boy next door, older women with younger men, younger men with younger men, and the list goes on. How can any romance writer hope to find an original plot device these days? The answer is: they don’t really need to. Sophie Kinsella’s latest novel is so similar to her previous outings that you’d be forgiven for forgetting which one you’re actually reading –but that’s exactly what her fans love about her work, and she does it with flair. Best known for her Confessions of a Shopaholic series, Kinsella’s novels are light as a feather, read-it-in-one-sitting rom coms, as perfect for consumption on a holiday sun lounge as they are for a cosy sofa, once the house is quiet and you’re free to let your imagination stray towards life’s romantic ‘what ifs’.
This time around, our heroine is Poppy Wyatt – a slightly neurotic physiotherapist who is days away from getting hitched to clever philosopher Magnus Tavish. She is still coming to terms with her good fortune at marrying up into the wealthy old money of the Tavish clan, when she loses her priceless family heirloom engagement ring at a charity high tea. Magnus’ snooty, intellectual parents are due in town any day for a catch up with the happy couple, sending Poppy into ring-search overdrive. She alerts everyone short of the Prime Minister himself to her plight and gives them all her mobile number in the event the precious jewellery turns up. Then she loses her phone. As she sits despondent in the hotel lobby retracing her steps and willing the ring to appear, she notices a phone in a nearby rubbish bin. Has someone thrown it there? Dropped it accidentally? Her moral quandary is brief – she needs that ring! – so she nabs the phone and starts spreading the number as hers, leading to an outrageous series of coincidences and miscommunications, just as one might expect when romantic comedy meets electronic communications. As the ring predicament gradually reveals some difficult truths for Poppy, she also becomes embroiled in the secret life of the phone’s original owner.
Kinsella skilfully twists and turns the plot of I’ve Got Your Number, keeping the reader guessing right till the end which of the two obvious potential love interests Poppy will choose. The novel ticks all the boxes for romantic fiction: it’s funny, flirty and fantastic (in the ‘it would never happen in real life’ sense of the word) and Poppy is a likeable addition to the Bridget Jones stable of imperfect but loveable modern girls doing their best to conquer love, life and the perfect pair of shoes.
One nifty addition to this novel is the use of footnotes throughout – a device Poppy has picked up from reading Magnus’ academic tomes: “Aren’t they handy? You just bung them in wherever you want and instantly look clever”. I’m not sure how much ‘cleverness’ they added to my impression of Poppy, but they do lend Poppy’s narrative voice a very personal, conversational tone allowing even her most random thoughts, which don’t necessarily progress the storyline, to have a forum. This should appeal to anyone used to communicating in the style of social media. This is added to the reproduction of emails and text messages, alongside conventional paragraphs, to give the whole novel a playful, contemporary feel whilst simultaneously poking fun at the unreliable nature of the very communication modes it celebrates.
You can hear Sophie Kinsella talking (in her delightful British accent) about the novel here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhONqKrTbgU. She says that she was inspired to write the book after pondering how genuinely incredible mobile phones really are; these tiny little devices that contain a world of information about us can become an extension of our personalities. Indeed the phone in this storyline is practically a character in its own right! Modern communications have become so advanced, however, that I must admit to querying why Poppy didn’t take a different path here – buy a cheap new phone and have her provider transfer the old number maybe? Was there no password on the phone she found? Did it have an unlimited data plan? But why let such practicalities stand in the way of a good story? I’ve Got Your Number reminds us that the direst of situations might ultimately have a happy ending – and we could all do with hearing that from time to time.
I’ve Got Your Number is published in Australia by Random House (and I thank them kindly for my copy).