The List by Joanna Bolouri

the list bolouriWhy I read it:  I received a review copy from the publisher.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Phoebe Henderson may be single but she sure doesn’t feel fabulous. It’s been a year since she found her boyfriend Alex in bed with another woman, and multiple cases of wine and extensive relationship analysis with best friend Lucy have done nothing to help. Faced with a new year but no new love, Phoebe concocts a different kind of resolution.

The List: ten things she’s always wanted to do in bed but has never had the chance (or the courage!) to try. A bucket list for between the sheets. One year of pleasure, no strings attached.

Simple, right?

Factor in meddlesome colleagues, friends with benefits, getting frisky al fresco and maybe, possibly, true love and Phoebe’s got her work cut out for her.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  Given the story is about a list, I thought it might be fun to review it in list format too.

1.     I’d categorise this book as “chicklit” (even though I don’t love the term).

Yes it has a romance and yes there is a happy ending but it’s really more about one woman’s journey over the course of a year and it doesn’t have much by way of deep character description of anyone other than Phoebe.  I liked many of the characters, but I can’t say I really got to know them all that well.  It is a different book to Bridget Jones’ Diary but it has a similar vibe and style so I think it would work for readers who enjoyed the Helen Fielding novel.

2.     It’s funny.  I had quite a few chuckles when I read it. For example:

People go on and bloody on about how fantastic sex is and although I’ve enjoyed it, it’s like watching the second Matrix film – parts of it were good but it didn’t exactly blow me away.

or

“He’s just a habit you have to break. Like smoking. Or that time we both went to the gym three times in one month.”

or

“You don’t need to make a list of stupid resolutions you’ll never keep Phoebe. Remember last year you were going to start running?”

“I did start running. I totally ran. And I’m just making one big resolution this year, one that matters.”

“You ran once round the park and then you vomited in a hedge. That doesn’t count…”

3.    There are unfortunate ableist slurs used throughout the book, mostly comments regarding mental illness.

While I know it is how people commonly speak, it is too easy to use mental illness as the butt of jokes.  The author demonstrates loads of creative humour in the book.  I didn’t think she needed to stoop to this kind of slur to get a laugh.

 4.    There is one transgender slur I could have lived without.

Also, see above.  (On the other hand, I had an early copy so maybe it go edited out in the final version?)

5.     Some romance readers may struggle with the sex.

Because for most of the book, Phoebe and her love interest are not just having sex with each other – they are regularly having sex with a number of other people too – and mostly, this is not together.  I was okay with it, mainly because the characters were. It was open and Phoebe and [redacted] had made no promises of fidelity.  But this may be a deal breaker for some people.

 6.    There was no evidence of condom usage at all in the book.

None. Which, given the point immediately above, was a surprise and not in a good way.

 7.    I found Phoebe endearing in an honest, if sometimes, clueless, way.

Unlike Bridget Jones’ Diary, most of the humour is not humiliating.

 8.    Phoebe’s friends were loyal and caring and lots of fun.

I also liked the Glasgow setting (even though it could have been set anywhere in the UK).

9.    It’s a fast read.

Because it is written in the form of pseudo-diary entries over the course of a year, it had lots of small bites and it was really easy to think “I’ll just read the next one” and so on until I stayed up too late both nights to finish.

 10.  The ending petered out for me a little and I’d have preferred more of the happy ending part.

For romance readers (like me) it is a very abrupt finish, but overall, it was charming and fun and Phoebe ended up with who I wanted her to end up with, so I count it good.

 

Grade: B

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