The Shop on Blossom Street – Debbie Macomber – Book Review
‘Carol smiled at the dreamy look on Jacqueline’s face. “I thought I’d died and gone to heaven the first time Doug kissed me,” she recalled.’
This is not the kind of book I would usually read, it was a promotional copy, shoved unasked for in my carrier by a BHS cashier. No, I didn’t have to read it, but I did, whilst tutting, during ad breaks and mundane conversations. While I wouldn’t have bought it, I don’t mind the odd bit of low brow fiction and will read in any genre provided the writing reaches a basic level of credibility, which this didn’t.
The main characters are; Lydia – spunky cancer survivor, scared of relationships; Jacqueline – wealthy, image conscious snob; Alix with an I – young, punky and tough, but vulnerable underneath; Carol – desperate for a baby. They all come together in a knitting class where their problems are shared and solved in a formulaic, predictable bumwipe of a novel.
Four more stereotypical women could surely not be imagined; each facing their own cliched issues, each in need of a romantic fix to achieve fulfilment. Let’s take Alix as an example. At the start of the book she has purple spiked hair, wears a dog collar, works in a video shop and owes community service hours for a drugs charge, (to avoid being too controversial the author makes it her flat mate’s cannabis, don’t forget Alix is good underneath so therefore must hate drugs). It turns out she had a rough childhood, although we are spared too many details other than that she spent a lot of time hiding in a closet, this must explain her fashion sense. There’s something compelling about the fact that you just know she is going to have to have a make over, because of course no-one with purple spikes could really be well adjusted. Then there’s the childhood sweetheart who visits her shop, (he rents out Dumb and Dumber, which made me howl), and has grown up to be a Christian minister. Romance could never be on the cards for this mismatched pair, could it?
To say the storyline is unimaginative is letting the author off too lightly, the pages drip lazy writing, cliche and trite moralisation. But who am I to criticise? After all this is the first book in a best selling series, so obviously it has a wide appeal, even if it makes me despair. Surely there’s no harm in it for readers who desire a little light escapism, even if it is oh so cosy, as well as being completely removed from reality. Well, actually it sends out some truly objectionable messages such as; women – pleasing the man in your life will bring you happiness, hard work will always bring great reward, we make our own luck and even if something nasty like cancer comes along you can beat it by being a nice positive person. Everyone knows that if you are sick, poor, disabled, unemployed or just unhappy you’ve brought it on yourself and should just get a job and a haircut or go for a bike ride. Simple.
I’m not entirely sure why I read this to the end. Maybe the sheer dreadfulness made me persevere just to see if it really would turn out to be as dire as I thought, a bit like the times I watched Neighbours. But no surprises here, (the minister didn’t turn to crack, nor did Carol realise that a baby isn’t the only way a woman can find fulfilment, and Jacqueline and her husband never discovered the joys of dogging). It reminded me of ‘My Guy’. I used to read a cousins stash of the teen magazine that I was told were too old for me but I thought they were great, when I was about eight. Whether Blossom Street reaches quite the same standard in terms of plot and character development is open to question, but it is, undisputably, tired outdated dross and an insult to anyone who can read.