I have read many Sophie Kinsella books in the past and have loved them. I’ve Got Your Number is probably one of my all time favourite Women’s Fiction books. Sophie Kinsella has a wit to her voice that I have yet to find anywhere else. That said, tough, I was reluctant to pick up Surprise Me for two reasons: One, I didn’t really like her last few books and found them superficial. And two, books about married people tend to not really float my boat. So you can see that my expectations for the book weren’t very high. But once you’ve discovered an author that you love, it is very hard not to read all their books, no matter your expectations. And as you will see below, I’m incredibly happy that I did pick it up because I absolutely loved it.
what Surprise Me is about
Sylvie and Dan have been happily married for 7 years and dating for 10. Their lives are pretty much perfect. Knowing each other in and out they can finish each other’s sentences before the other one has even opened their mouth, leaving them with plenty of eye-contact, yes, that’s what I meant, no words needed conversations, their twin-girls making that special connection even stronger.
So when, after a routine check-up at the doctor, they are complimented on their healthy body and good family-tree and promised that they will live a long and happy life, you would expect them to be overjoyed, right? Wrong. Because suddenly they realize that they will have to spend a long time, sixty-eight years to be exact, together. And forever seems like a really long time. I mean REALLY long. Like the countdown to Christmas, or driving home from holidays when all you want to do is curl up in your bed, but the cars in front of you crawl slower than a snail.
Their ten year anniversary forgotten, Sylvie and Dan go home, each silently dreading the next sixty-eight years. How can you stay in love with someone for so long without getting bored? You already know everything about the other person so there is nothing new to discover.
Things seem to perk up when Sylvie suggest project Surprise Me to spark up their married life. But as the word says, there are some surprises that really surprise you. And just because something is a surprise, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to like it.
With things going surprisingly wrong, their once so perfect marriage suddenly seems to be in danger. Will they manage to fix what they’ve broken or will project Surprise Me tear them apart forever?
what I liked about Surprise Me
- The honesty: The topic Surprise Me deals with is quite “heavy” as it is dangerously realistic. Because I feel like more than being just about keeping a marriage alive, it is also about what you do with the life you’ve been given. Together or apart. And if you look at it closely, it also raises the question of whether forever is a long or a short time. I’m not so sure about that one either. Because depending on your perspective, your life can be incredibly long or painfully short. And what does it mean to live a good and happy life? There are so many questions that Surprise Me raises to which the answers are less obvious than you might think.
- The characters: Before reading Surprise Me, I read a review over on All About Romance that criticized the characters and deemed them unlikable. It threw me off for a while. But after reading the book myself, I have to say that I disagree. Sylvie and Dan are real people with real problems. And while Sylvie and her princess-behaviour annoyed me at first, I can safely say that the book wouldn’t have been the same without that. It needs her spoilt daddy’s girl kind of attitude to allow her to grow up at the end.
- The humour: Sophie Kinsella is known for her witty writing and clumsy, but very lovable characters. Now, Surprise Me doesn’t have the same amount of scenes that make you laugh in public as say the Shopaholic book. But I feel like that would be out of place. To me, Surprise Me is the grown-up and more mature Sophie Kinsella book. Don’t get me wrong, the characters still get themselves into hilarious situations and there’s enough room for uncontrollable laughter. Picturing the scene at the birthday party towards the end of the book still makes me laugh. (Yeah, I know. It’s only fun if you’ve read the book as well…) But. And that but is important here. There is a more serious side to the book as well, where forced comedy would just seem wrong. I am not married myself, but from what I’ve seen and what I imagine, keeping a marriage alive for forever must be incredibly hard work.
what I didn’t like about Surprise Me
The only thing I could criticize is Sylvie’s relationship with her father. I wanted to slap her at the beginning and make her realize that she’s living in a Princess Sylvie shaped bubble and needs to grow up. But as I mentioned above, criticizing that would be stupid because the book is very much about Sylvie waking up, growing up and realizing that she needs to start doing things her way and that the people we love, even if they are our parents, aren’t perfect either. Which ultimately leads me back to the fact, that there really isn’t anything I disliked about the book. Sorry.
would I recommend Surprise Me
Would I recommend it? Um… YEAH!
Of course I would! I would even recommend this to people who might normally not really like Sophie Kinsella’s books. Because I feel that while it’s still obvious that it is a Kinsella book, it is also very much different. Hard to describe. But I really feel lke this is a grown-up Sophie Kinsella book. And not just because the characters are a bit older and already married. Although that is a big difference too. 🙂
what to read after Surprise Me
This I find hard to answer.
Normally, I would recommend you read another Sophie Kinsella book, but I feel like this would be misplaced here. So maybe you should go and check out some of Jenny Oliver’s books. The Summer House by the Sea, The Sunshine and Biscotti Club and her new book (out July 12th) The House We Called Home are all very much about family, community and battling through tough times.
If, however, you are looking for something a bit heavier and don’t need the Women’s Fiction type of humour and sometimes escapist writing, I can also highly recommend Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child, a book that follows an older married couple in the Alaskan wilderness as they try to overcome a loss that has changed them forever.