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Book Review: The Undomestic Goddess

sophie
Do you ever have an urge to go back to your bookshelf and relive a story in your collection? I do, all the time. And for some reason, a couple of weeks ago I was feeling pulled to Sophie Kinsella’s The Undomestic Goddess. If you have never heard of her, definitely check her work out. It is chick lit but so, so much more than that. I laugh out loud reading this book, which is awkward if you are anywhere but your own home.

The last time I read this novel was before I went to college, so make that sometime around 2010. Back then, I enjoyed it and fell in love with main character Samantha Sweeting. She is smart, funny, driven, clever, and unpredictable.

Eighteen-year-old me saw her as a strong role model. Twenty-three-year old me has been going through a lot of transitions lately, and maybe that is why I needed to take this book off the shelf. I wanted to feel something solidly confident in my gut again–what better way to do that than to talk to a best friend of old about it?

So I sat down with Sophie Kinsella and Samantha Sweeting to relive Samantha’s story and learn a little bit more about mine.

Samantha is a lawyer on the fast track to partner. Since childhood, she has been pushed and pressured into being the best that she can be. She doesn’t sleep, cook, or relax. She sold her soul to her career, but then she makes a mistake. A mistake that sets fire to her entire life.

I’m not a lawyer. I’m a writer, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t sold my soul to my career, either. I read so many sentences in the first few chapters of The Undomestic Goddess that could have been copied from my journals.

“I thrive under pressure.”

“I check my emails about once every…thirty seconds, maybe.”

“I’m not addicted to my watch. But obviously I rely on it.”

My life is in no way as stressful/high powered/intense as Samantha’s, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t live in a pressure cooker. I’m in my early twenties. Of course I focus too much on my job. I just got a degree, and I need to use it.

I’m a young professional. Of course I check my email every thirty seconds (or at least as soon as it dings).

I’m a busy woman. Of course I rely on schedules, time, and numerous Target watches.

At least, that’s how I thought until I really got into this book and realized that Samantha is figuring out the same things I am staring in the face. At one point for both of us, all of these workaholic qualities were admirable; they were the way to success. When I was eighteen I honestly believed I could have that kind of crazy work ethic and still have a life.

Lies. A work ethic like the one talked about in this book is an unnatural, unreasonable, and unhealthy one. Reasonable limits for yourself, time away from the computer, and hours spent outside doing productive activities (such as walking the dog) are just as important as the hours you log at the office. In fact, the more you take care of yourself, the better your career will be. A clear head makes for solid work.

I had already begun to realize this recently, through advice of friends, family, and simply on my own, but it was refreshing to pick an old story up and see it a new way. I relate to Samantha more now. She taught me different lessons a few year later because I have grown to be more like her. The good news is, she has a happy ending.

So, I guess the moral of this book review is not necessarily that this book is fabulous and you should totally give Sophie Kinsella a try. The moral of this book review is that rereading old books is not necessarily reading something old.

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16 thoughts on “Book Review: The Undomestic Goddess

  1. I’ve never read this book before (nor anything by Sophie Kinsella), but it sounds like one that many of us twenty-somethings can relate to. I am like you in that 1) I’m freshly out of college, and 2) trying to get ahead in this crazy, busy adult world. Perhaps I will give this book a try (if I’m not too busy!). 😉

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  2. I have experienced this multiples times. Sometimes a novel just affects in a profound way. I tend to keep those novels that really impact me in some way. I have learned the hard way, however, that sometimes it’s better to remember books for how they were the first time. I have returned to some novels and walked away feeling hollow, almost like I lost a piece of myself.

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    1. I totally agree. It is so sad when the magic of a book changes because you have. As a child, I loved the Chronicles of Narnia and also the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman. I have yet to read them as an adult for fear of losing what they gave me as a kid.

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      1. There are definitely a handful of novels that I will never read again because I am scared of how they will change for me. Inversely, there are novels that actually become better the more I read them. Howl’s Moving Castle is one of them. I read it because I enjoyed the movie but the book blew me away. I feel that everytime I read it, it becomes even more magical.
        I guess it can work both ways. I am not willing to chance it sometimes.

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      2. They very much can. As with everything, one must weight the pros v. cons, cost v. benefit.
        It’s also interesting to see how our opinion of something changes over time because of how we have changed. I will reread something and have a completely new view. At first, it made me feel like I was flaky. Then I learned that’s just human nature.

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  3. I absolutely love Sophie Kinsella. The magic of her books is that I find them extremely sharp and poignant. I never read The Undomestic Goddess – I think it’s one of the only Kinsella books I haven’t read.
    I read her books through various parts of my life, multiple times. My favorite one is Can You Keep a Secret?, but you inspired me to purchase The Undomestic Goddess.
    Can I just mention that I loved the personal twist in this review? Very creative.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by, I am so glad you enjoyed it! 🙂 I have actually been recommended Can You Keep A Secret? by a friend – and meaning to pick it up. You must let me know what you think of this book when you read it!

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  4. Alexandra, I have a Love affair with books and there are times I do go back to a book I had already read. I am a lot further down the Path of Life then you are, and I still must remind myself to slow down. I was molded to be a work-aholic and throughout my Life I have accomplished SO much yet, now that I am settling into late/middle age, I really do want to slow down. That doesn’t mean I actually do though. My camera and my books help slow me down as do the walks I take. And Yoga. Life is precious. Don’t be a slave to your career. I know I know easier said then done. 😉 ❤

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  5. Great post Alexandra! I haven’t read a good fiction book for a few years but I remember this one. Love Sophie Kinsella. I also love what you said about picking up an old story and seeing it a new way. Very insightful! I’m doing that with my own life at the moment 🙂

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