Kinsella, Sophie 1969- [A pseudonym] (Madeleine Wickham)
Kinsella, Sophie 1969- [A pseudonym] (Madeleine Wickham)
Born December 12, 1969, in London, England; married; children: Freddy, Hugo, and Oscar. Education: Oxford University, B.A. 1990; King's College, London, M.Mus., 1992.
Writer and novelist. Former financial writer and journalist.
Can You Keep a Secret? Dial (New York, NY), 2004.
The Undomesticated Goddess, Dial Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Remember Me?, Dial Press (New York, NY), 2008.
The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic, Corgi (London, England), 2000, published as Confessions of a Shopaholic, Bantam Dell/Delta (New York, NY), 2001.
Shopaholic Abroad, Black Swan (London, England), 2001, published as Shopaholic Takes Manhattan, Dell (New York, NY), 2002.
Shopaholic Ties the Knot, Black Swan (London, England), 2002, Bantam Dell/Delta (New York, NY), 2003.
Shopaholic & Sister, Dial Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Shopaholic & Baby, Dial Books (New York, NY), 2007.
NOVELS; WRITING AS MADELEINE WICKHAM
The Tennis Party, Black Swan (London, England), 1995, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.
A Desirable Residence, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Swimming Pool Sunday, Black Swan (London, England), 1997, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998.
The Gatecrasher, Black Swan (London, England), 1998, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Cocktails for Three, Black Swan (London, England), 2000, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2001.
Can You Keep a Secret? has been optioned for film by Paramount; The Undomesticated Goddess has been optioned for film by Universal Pictures.
British novelist Sophie Kinsella, the pseudonym for Madeleine Wickham, is the creator of Rebecca "Becky" Bloomwood, the shopping-obsessed protagonist of a series of best-selling novels that began with The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic, published in the United States as Confessions of a Shopaholic. Kinsella began her career as a financial journalist, a profession practiced by Bloomwood in the series. That is not the only similarity between Kinsella and her leading lady, in fact.
Discussing Confessions of a Shopaholic in a 2000 interview with Lucy Dibdin for Virgin.net, Kinsella summarized the similarities: "It's not an autobiography, but there's a lot of Becky in me, and me in her," Kinsella told Dibdin. "I was a financial journalist, I used to sit at my desk dreaming of clothes when I should have been writing—and I do love shopping." Kinsella went on to tell Dibdin that shopping is "the ultimate power." The author added: "It's like the pursuit of pleasure." Kinsella may have had that philosophy in mind as she developed Bloomwood, whose obsession with shopping leads to tremendous credit difficulties. In fact, much of the plot in Confessions of a Shopaholic involves the twenty-five-year-old Bloomwood maneuvering through her world of debt. Bloomwood's problems largely stem from her insistence on upscale living in a fashionable London neighborhood. Although she is respected and admired by her peers because of her position as a financial writer for the London magazine Successful Savings, the job does not pay very much, and not enough to support Bloomwood's extravagant lifestyle. As a result, she hides bills rather than pay them. Kinsella injects humor into the tale, as Bloomwood tries a number of get-rich-quick schemes to compensate, including trying to marry several of London's richest bachelors. "Readers will have mixed feelings about Confessions of a Shopaholic as the story line is well written and has its amusing moments. The problem is that Becky has no depth," wrote Harriet Klausner of BookBrowser.com. Wanting to see a bit more substance in the plot, Suzanne Young in Booklist thought the story "would be more compelling if Becky were even slightly more self-aware."
The plot of Shopaholic Takes Manhattan is similar to the first work, except Bloomwood, who travels to America with her love interest, shops in the department stores of New York City rather than the boutiques of London. In this story, Bloomwood's spending problems threaten to derail a significant publishing opportunity, her new job as a television journalist, and her relationship with Luke Brandon, a rich advertising executive whom she hopes to marry. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews considered the book "a rehash" of the first installment in the series. "Kinsella creates some winning characters, but the credit card and shopping bag action is wearing dangerously thin," wrote a contributor for Publishers Weekly. The third installment of the series, Shopaholic Ties the Knot, was published in 2002 and finds Becky with a dream job as a personal shopper for Barney's. Life couldn't get better, Becky believes, until her boyfriend offers her a proposal of marriage. The book is "chock-full of the charming antics and asides that made the first two installments hilarious bestsellers," wrote Margaret Flanagan in Booklist. A Kirkus Reviews contributor referred to the novel merely as "funny, funny, funny."
Shopaholic & Baby, described by Booklist reviewer Kristine Huntley as "every bit as delightful and hilarious as its predecessors," follows Becky during her pregnancy, which, as expected, is replete with shopping trips and all the designer trappings of expectant parenthood. The only glitch is that the must-have obstetrician, Venetia Carter, turns out to be Becky's husband Luke's old flame—and Becky suspects that sparks may still be flying between them. "Kinsella mines a rich vein by tweaking 21st-century glossy mag obsessions," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer, while a writer for Kirkus Reviews deemed the book "effervescent and clever amusement best enjoyed by those whose hearts beat faster at the thought of thousand-dollar baby furniture."
Prior to writing the "Shopaholic" books, Kinsella first wrote The Tennis Party, about a weekend at an upscale English country house during which three couples become involved in secret liaisons and shady deals. Megan Harlan, writing in Entertainment Weekly, called the novel "a fast-paced, enjoyable, if undemanding, volley." In her second book, A Desirable Residence, Kinsella features teachers Liz and Jonathan Chambers, who put their house up for sale to fund a tutorial college. However, Liz soon finds herself romantically involved with a real estate agent named Marcus Witherstone, who is part of a fraud he is conducting with his wife. Michelle Leber, writing in Booklist, noted that "just desserts are served in a satisfying and entertaining fashion." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that the author "has a clever eye that renders her characters' emotions and fears universal rather than stereotypical."
Cocktails for Three features three heroines: Maggie, Roxanne, and Candice, all successful women who work for Londoner magazine. They meet every month at the Manhattan Bar, where they reveal to each other the secrets of their lives, including adultery and guilt. In a review of Cocktails for Three in Publishers Weekly, a contributor wrote: "Readers desiring a chatty, neatly told tale will be delighted by the author's deft handling of character development and drama."
Another earlier book, Swimming Pool Sunday, tells of a separated couple who come under the influence of a shady lawyer who wants the couple to sue over a diving accident that has injured their daughter. A Publishers Weekly contributor called the author "a fine chronicler of life's small and large catastrophes." In The Gatecrasher, Kinsella features the character of Fleur Daxeny, a high-class prostitute who goes to funerals in search of an eligible man to marry, and becomes a swindler to get money for her and her daughter Zara. Michelle Kaske, writing in Booklist, called The Gatecrasher "an enjoyable read." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that the author "creates memorable characters who are as unpredictable and multifaceted as they are stylish."
In the 2004 novel Shopaholic & Sister, Becky is back and married to Luke Brandon. After returning to London from an extended honeymoon, Becky finds out that an earlier affair that her father had actually produced a child. Becky is eager to meet her half sister, who is the exact opposite of Becky in that she dresses slovenly and hates shopping. As usual, Becky's shopping also creates dilemmas, including a strain on her new marriage. Kristine Huntley, writing in Booklist, called the novel "hilarious fun for Prada and Gucci aficionados." Library Journal contributor Anastasia Diamond recommended the book to "newcomers and fans alike."
Can You Keep a Secret? is another departure from Kinsella's "Shopaholic" stories. The novel relates the tale of Emma Corrigan, who reveals all her secrets, such as her boyfriend's blandness and how she hates her job, to a fellow passenger when she flies to England on a plane that she thinks is going to crash. The listener happens to be an attractive businessman, who turns out to be a higher-up in her company. When Emma goes to work and sees the man there, she expects to be fired but is surprised by what action he takes. Clarissa Cruz, writing in Entertainment Weekly, commented that "the breezy plot rambles to its happily-ever-after." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that the author's "down-to-earth protagonist is sure to have readers sympathizing and doubled over in laughter." In a review in Booklist, Kristine Huntley called the novel "delightful," adding that the author "has another irresistible hit on her hands." Writing in International Fiction Review, Nora Foster Stovel noted that the plot "does have some ingenious twists."
In another stand-alone novel, The Undomesticated Goddess, Samantha Sweeting goes into a downward spiral when she finds that she has accidentally cost one of her law firm's clients a fortune. When she runs off to the country in a daze, she ends up taking a job as a housekeeper based on a case of mistaken identity. In her new job she soon finds herself falling in love with the gardener. "Another charming winner from the delightful Kinsella," wrote Kristine Huntley in Booklist. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the author's "genuine charm and sweet wit may continue to win her fans."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Atlantic, May, 1996, review of The Tennis Party, p. 122.
Booklist, January 1, 1997, Michele Leber, review of A Desirable Residence, p. 823; April 15, 2000, Michelle Kaske, review of The Gatecrasher, p. 1526; January 1, 2001, Suzanne Young, review of Confessions of a Shopaholic, p. 918; March 15, 2003, Margaret Flanagan, review of Shopaholic Ties the Knot, p. 1275; February 15, 2004, Kristine Huntley, review of Can You Keep a Secret?, p. 1037; September 15, 2004, Kristine Huntley, review of Shopaholic & Sister, p. 208; July, 2005, Kristine Huntley, review of The Undomesticated Goddess, p. 1898; January 1, 2007, Kristine Huntley, review of Shopaholic & Baby, p. 55.
Bookseller, January 6, 2006, Sarah Broadhurst, "Giants: Sarah Broadhurst Tips the 2006 Titles Destined for Book Publishing Bestsellerdom," mention of Undomesticated Goddess, p. S6; January 26, 2007, review of Shopaholic & Baby, p. 12.
Entertainment Weekly, May 17, 1996, Megan Harlan, review of The Tennis Party, p. 57; March 26, 2004, Clarissa Cruz, review of Can You Keep a Secret?, p. 79; October 8, 2004, Clarissa Cruz, review of Shopaholic & Sister, p. 119; August 5, 2005, Clarissa Cruz, "Sophie Kinsella Talks Shop," p. 34.
Hollywood Reporter, March 10, 2005, Borys Kit, "Uni Sweeps up ‘Undomestic’ Pic," p. 3.
International Fiction Review, January, 2006, Nora Foster Stovel, review of Can You Keep a Secret?, p. 102.
Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine, June, 2001, review of Confessions of a Shopaholic, p. 28.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2001, review of Shopaholic Takes Manhattan, p. 1570; December 15, 2002, review of Shopaholic Ties the Knot, p. 1792; August 1, 2004, review of Shopaholic & Sister, p. 707; December 15, 2006, review of Shopaholic & Baby, p. 1237.
Library Journal, July, 1997, review of A Desirable Residence, p. 152; March 1, 1998, Dorothy S. Golden, review of Swimming Pool Sunday, p. 130; May 15, 2000, Susan Clifford Braun, review of The Gatecrasher, p. 128; June 1, 2004, Barbara Hoffert, review of Shopaholic & Sister, p. 101; September 15, 2004, Anastasia Diamond, review of Shopaholic & Sister, p. 49.
Maclean's, April 26, 2004, John Intini, "John Intini Starts a Sentence … Sophie Kinsella Finishes It," p. 60.
Money, July 1, 2001, review of Confessions of a Shopaholic, p. 121.
People, February 12, 2001, Victoria Balfour, review of Confessions of a Shopaholic, p. 41; October 11, 2004, Janice P. Nimura, review of Shopaholic & Sister, p. 56.
Publishers Weekly, February 26, 1996, review of The Tennis Party, p. 86; January 20, 1997, review of A Desirable Residence, p. 394; February 23, 1998, review of Swimming Pool Sunday, p. 51; April 17, 2000, review of The Gatecrasher, p. 51; December 18, 2000, review of Confessions of a Shopaholic, p. 53; June 25, 2001, review of Cocktails for Three, p. 46; December 10, 2001, review of Shopaholic Takes Manhattan, p. 49; March 11, 2002, Daisy Maryles and Dick Donahue, "12-Step Program Available? (Behind the Bestsellers)," review of Shopaholic Takes Manhattan, p. 18; January 5, 2004, review of Can You Keep a Secret?, p. 37; August 30, 2004, review of Shopaholic & Sister, p. 32; October 11, 2004, Daisy Maryles, "Sophie + Sis = Six," p. 17; March 14, 2005, Daisy Maryles, "A Secret Worth Telling," about book Can You Keep a Secret?, p. 18; June 20, 2005, review of The Undomesticated Goddess, p. 59; December 18, 2006, review of Shopaholic & Baby, p. 40.
BookReview.com,http://www.bookreview.com/ (November 3, 2008) Harriet Klausner, review of Confessions of a Shopaholic.
Sophie Kinsella Web site,http://www.randomhouse.com/bantamdell/kinsella (December 11, 2006).
Teen Reads,http://www.teenreads.com/ (August 15, 2007), Hillary Wagy, review of Shopaholic & Baby.
Trashionista,http://www.trashionista.com/ (August 15, 2007), review of Shopaholic & Baby.
Virgin.net,http://www.virgin.net/ (December 10, 2000), Lucy Dibdin, "It's Time to Lock up Your Credit Cards," review of The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic.