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Beautiful People by Wendy Holden


If you’re the kind of person who enjoys whiling away summer holidays with a good book of chick-lit, I don’t think you could do yourself a bigger favour than finding a copy of Beautiful People, the new book from the British writer Wendy Holden.


I wasn’t familiar with her, and having Googled her while I was reading this book, it struck me as interesting how really funny, diverting books can come from people with quite serious backgrounds, and Beautiful People is a prime example – Wendy Holden was educated at the illustrious Cambridge University and then she became a journalist and magazine editor before she packed it all in about 10 years ago to concentrate on writing, which seems to have been a good decision for her because Beautiful People has just become her ninth consecutive bestselling novel in the UK.


The characters are what make this book so damned entertaining – there is the blonde, scrawny, breast-enhanced fading movie star Belle, her nanny Emma, who takes care of the African orphan Belle adopted as a PR stunt, Belle’s gorgeous and vacuous movie-star ex-boyfriend Christian, the up-and-coming British actress Darcy (who finds herself cast in a movie with Belle and Christian), Darcy’s ghastly boyfriend Niall, who dumps Darcy for Belle, the model-agency owner Sam, who is trying to sign up the very shy and reluctant Orlando, who is trying to get together with Emma.


I hope you’re still with me! Despite how it might sound, it is very easy to keep up with all the characters and their convolutions, and there are some more fascinating people who appear later in the book – including Marco, the Italian restaurateur, and Hugo, the awful politician with equally awful teenage sons, but I won’t say what their relationships are to the other characters – suffice to say it is true chick-lit in that everyone gets their comeuppance and just deserts.


A real treat is that about halfway through the setting changes from the UK to Italy, and Wendy Holden cleverly engineers the plot so that all the characters wind up in the same gorgeous village in Italy at the same time – for me, this is where Holden really comes into her own in the book, and one of the most amusing set-pieces that becomes a recurring theme is when the character of Darcy is put on a completely unnecessary diet by the studio for her feature-film debut, but is unable to resist all the delicious Italian food being put in front of her – Holden makes some mouth-watering descriptions, so you might be struck as I was by the urge to do some Italian cooking once you finish the book.


It’s a big book, it’s getting close to 700 pages, but it’s one of those ones you can just sit down with with a cup of tea – or a glass of wine – and just luxuriate in.


If you’re not familiar with Wendy Holden’s earlier books, she’s been widely compared with Jilly Cooper, which is a fair comparison in my mind, although she doesn’t have the raunch factor that Jilly has – this is more of an entertaining, PG13 romp that really is all about beautiful people, as the title promises, and it’s a great way to spend a few hours escaping into another world.


This review previously appeared on Coast.co.nz


Reviewed by Stephanie Jones

Published by Hachette

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