I adore Sophie Kinsella’s work. When I was a full-time university student and didn’t have much time for novels, I got away with a bit of light reading and chick lit. Much Sophie Kinsella between 2005-2009. I started with Can You Keep A Secret? and eventually into the first Shopaholic, etc.
This time, I got my hands on I’ve Got Your Number, a story about Poppy Wyatt, her lost engagement ring, and a phone that she fished out of a trash bin. Captivating, yes?
After a month of dating, Poppy’s boyfriend, Magnus Tavish (I’m sorry but this name just screams SUPERVILLAIN to me) proposes to her and presents to her the family heirloom: a £25,000 emerald ring. But Poppy loses the ring during a hotel fire drill, and then gets her phone stolen shortly after. She does find an abandoned working Nokia phone in the trash, which she then desperately claims. Shenanigans ensue!
Poppy is not a Mary Sue–she is not strikingly gorgeous and men do not instantly fall in love with her at first sight (except Magnus). In fact, Poppy is convinced that she is quite plain compared to her colleague Annalise, whom had a bitchfit when her insistence of switching appointments caused her to miss out on nabbing Magnus; and quite dim compared to the Tavish family’s genius minds. During a game of Scrabble, Magnus, his brother Felix, and their parents Antony and Wanda played high-scoring words like IRIDIUMS and OUTPUTTED while poor little Poppy could only muster STAR and PIG. Oh, the shame! It didn’t help that she felt belittled by her future in-laws.
If I were Poppy’s friend–or pretty much anyone who happens to be in her vicinity–I would drop dead of second-hand embarrassment. She once let a stranger on a phone talk her into convincing a Japanese businessman to stay in the hotel by pretending she was a singing telegraph and belting out “Mr. Yamashita!” to the tune of Beyonce’s Single Ladies. And she mistakenly opened a present that was not meant for her, and wearing said present (a camisole) that same night, only to learn that it was meant for Wanda. AWWWWWKWAAARD. Facepalm and sink into a hole.
While I would love to take Poppy by the shoulders and shake her violently to snap her out of her dim light bulb moments, I do feel bad for her bumbling wishy-washy self. It’s not her fault that she stepped out of the hotel only to get run over by a guy in a bike who meant to steal her phone. And it wasn’t her fault that she lost her engagement ring in the first–actually, it is because you don’t play pass-the-ring-around and not keep track of it. But it certainly wasn’t her fault that Magnus’ family have such high IQs and are well-read but she isn’t so much.
I suspended my disbelief and let on that Sam Roxton, the boss of the phone’s original owner, can’t simply have the phone disconnected. A company phone contains private information and should have been made in a way that makes it easy to disable or render useless were it to fall in the wrong hands. Nevertheless, he and Poppy make a deal where he lets her keep the phone for a while as long as she forwards the messages to him ASAP. She basically becomes his impromptu PA in exchange for letting her use the phone until she retrieves her ring. But as such…
“In fact, I was wondering,” I add casually. “You don’t want to sell it, do you?”
“A company phone, full of business emails?” He gives an incredulous laugh. “Are you nuts? I was mad letting you have access to it in the first place. Not that I had a choice, Ms. Light-fingers. I should have set the police on you.”
“I’m not a thief!” I retort, stung. “I didn’t steal it. I found it in a bin.”
“You should have handed it in.” He shrugs. “You know it and I know it.”
“It was common property! It was fair game!”
“‘Fair game’? You want to tell that to the judge? If I drop my wallet and it falls momentarily into a bin, does that give Joe Bloggs the right to steal it?”
Sam also offers to help Poppy procure a duplicate for the lost ring. The ordeal at the jewelry shop is hilarious. Martha and the other salespeople are enamored by the elegant Cartier watch around Sam’s wrist and assume that he and Poppy are engaged. How heartbroken they were when they learned that not only did the “couple” chose a simulated ring, but they also haggled the price down from £400 to £100! And Sam didn’t even want a box for it!
I am just dying at the exchange:
Martha is breathing harder and harder. For a moment I think she might lose it.
“Fine!” she says at last. “Absolutely fine. No box, no rose petals, no message.… ” She taps at her computer. “And how will you be paying for the ring, sir?” She’s obviously mustering all her energies to stay pleasant.
“Poppy?” Sam nods at me expectantly.
As I pull out my purse, Martha’s expression is so aghast, I nearly expire with embarrassment.
“So … you’ll be paying for the ring, madam.” She can barely get the words out. “Wonderful! That’s … wonderful. No problem at all.”
And Sam’s dad’s emails! The poor man was being ignored. I felt so bad, that I, too, got hot around the eyes. Kinsella has a way with stirring my emotions whether it be getting annoyed at Kerry from Can We Keep A Secret? or feeling pity for an ignored father. Her characters’ reactions often mirror mine and I appreciate this.
And Annalise. You can immediately tell that she is so bitter. Everything that shoots out of her mouth is so contemptuous. Annalise blatantly flirts with Magnus in front of Poppy. But because of her, Poppy met Magnus. If she hadn’t switched appointments (the girls are physiotherapists), she would have gotten Magnus and maybe he would’ve fallen in love at first sight with her. Not Poppy. Alas, you can’t always get what you want.
The problem with Poppy and the Tavishes is Poppy has created a web of lies around them. Sure, she beat them at Scrabble with WHAIZLED but she did so with the help of Sam and the Internet. So she cheated, and it may have made her feel smart for a while but she can’t keep up that charade. She also doesn’t think that coming clean about losing the ring to be a wise choice. So she had a dupe made and bandaged her hand on account of a “burn”. She’s not solely to blame, because Magnus has a penchant for keeping information back. He didn’t tell her that his parents weren’t very happy about his quick engagement and that resulted in a falling out, and he didn’t bother to tell her that his mother’s birthday was happening the same night they all had dinner. Too many lies–this engagement is doomed. And it all comes biting her in the ass during the rehearsal at the church.
My legs are shaking slightly as I escape to a nearby pew. This is a disaster. Now I’ll now have to pretend to be a Greek philosophy expert for the rest of my life. Every Christmas and family gathering, I’ll have to have a view on Greek philosophy. Not to mention be able to recite Robert Burns’s poetry.
I should never, ever have cheated.
I’m halfway through this book and I already know the moral: DO NOT TELL LIES!
And to top that off, the round robin email she replied to under Sam’s name without his consultation or approval blew up in her face! Oh, Poppy, bless your heart. She totally abused Sam’s kindness (letting her use the company phone for her own personal business, and keeping said phone hostage) and signed him up for a Fun Run, a dance class, a trip to Iceland, and an exchange program to Guatemala; sent poetic e-cards; and made other unapproved replies. She swooped into this man’s life and wreaked havoc. Yes, she may have helped him win over Mr. Yamasaki with her groan-induced song and Vivien but that doesn’t excuse her meddling. I just can’t with her. I want to feel bad, but she dives right into boiling water all of her own accord.
But Sam figures her out. Poppy is highly insecure. He gives her a taste of her own medicine and goes through her messages. He finds out that she sounds like a needy puppy desperate for love and approval. She signs her messages with hugs and kisses instead of using a more business-like tone.
He gestures at the phone. “Your emails are like one big cry. Kiss, kiss, hug, hug, please like me, please like me!”
“What?” I feel like he’s slapped me round the face. “That’s absolute … crap.”
“Take this one: Hi, Sue! Can I possibly change my wedding updo consultation to a later time, like five pm? It’s with Louis. Let me know. But if not, no worries. Thanks so much! I really appreciate it! Hope all is well. Love, Poppy xxxxxxxxxx Who’s Sue? Your oldest, dearest friend?”
“She’s the receptionist at my hairdresser.” I glare at him.
“So she gets thanks and appreciation and a zillion kisses, just for doing her job?”
“I’m being nice!” I snap.
“It’s not being nice,” he says firmly, “it’s being ridiculous. It’s a business transaction. Be businesslike.”
The thing with Sophie Kinsella’s heroines are they are not perfect. They are so flawed that even when you start to relate and form a sense of camaraderie with them, you are immediately shot back because they do something insane or embarrassing. Often in YA, the heroines are written as Mary Sues, that you think the author is doing hardcore projection. In chick lit, this could also happen. In some cases and in this case, it’s the opposite. I have a love/hate relationship with this type of characterization, and that is a good thing in my book.