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Book Review : Working Wonders

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December 2008 

Working Wonders by author Jenny Colgan

Reviewed by Kathryn Moss

I read avidly and my taste is eclectic, “chick lit” being one of the genres I read for a bit of light relief (and all too often boredom). That is exactly why I picked this book and I have to say I got a bit of a surprise. Far from being a predictable modern-day romance this book is funny and clever, and at times quite moving, with characters that are well developed and a plot that crosses over into the realms of fantasy – well, why not?!

The book centres round a group of unlikely people teaming up to bid for an unlikely city to be the European city of culture. Generally the central male characters grow more engaging as the book progresses, although the female characters had less of an impact on me. I really like the main male character Arthur, however my favourite is Sven with his droll sense of humour and attachment to his dog Sandwiches, who goes everywhere with him and becomes an integral part of the team. I love the way the team comes up with wacky ideas to win the bid, which aren’t necessarily based on commercial value or kudos, but are purely designed to raise the spirits of a city long maligned. I realise that in today’s world they are completely unrealistic but that’s part of the beauty of this book, we can dream can’t we? Far too often we just accept the constraints the oppressive world we live places on us, and this book is refreshing in that it disregards many of them. The lengths to which the team go to make their ideas happen are both admirable and hilarious, my favourite being the trip to the far north of Denmark to meet with ice making experts, where fantasy scenes of the frozen north abound and Arthur and Sandwiches take on heroic roles.

The book culminates in a final battle between the remaining two contenders, our unlikely team and their rivals, who have of course tried to thwart our heroes throughout with their evil interventions. This takes the form of an outward-bound exercise in the wilds of Wales, where (of course) good triumphs over evil, kind of anyway.

Quirky. Great fun. Touching. Imaginative. Fantastical. Read it if those adjectives appeal to you. I have read a few other reviews of this book, some of which slate Jenny Colgan for breaking away from her usual style, however I applaud her for it.

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