Review

The Gatecrasher

by Madeleine Wickham

Fleur Daxeny is a con artist of the highest order. She has also
figured out exactly how to meet her willing victims. With her
stunning good looks and vibrant red hair, Fleur stands out in a
crowd. When she shows up at a funeral, all she needs is a few
well-chosen words --- and an eye-catching hat --- and she's bound
to get the attention of any well-to-do widower.

Fast forward a couple of months, and Fleur has charmed her way into
the widower's bed --- and into his bank account. A few judicious
cash advances from the platinum card, and she's disappearing
without a trace, leaving behind nothing but a man left to nurse his
broken heart, his decimated bank account and his bruised
pride.

That is, until Fleur meets Richard Favour. Richard's wife, Emily,
was the love of his life, although after her death, he finds
himself remembering more and more examples of his late wife's
chilling, even cruel, demeanor. When Fleur shows up at Emily's
memorial service, posing as an old friend of his wife's, Richard is
instantly smitten. With her charming, warm and effervescent style,
Fleur is everything that Emily wasn't. Almost before he knows it, a
newly confident and spontaneous Richard is inviting Fleur to his
country home, indulging her whims, introducing her to his (shocked)
friends and wondering whether he might, finally, be finding out
what love is all about.

As for Fleur, she finds herself feeling at home with Richard's
family and circle of friends almost in spite of herself. Her
enforced distance becomes increasingly difficult to maintain,
though, when her 13-year-old daughter Zara shows up at Richard's
door, threatening not only to expose Fleur's motivations but also
to convince her that this place, these people, are the home Zara
has always desperately wanted.

Under the pen name "Sophie Kinsella," Madeleine Wickham has
published the highly successful Shopaholic series of books. Now her
publisher is releasing, for the first time in the U.S., several
chick-lit novels written under Wickham's real name. Even if they
don't check the (1998) copyright date, readers will soon guess that
this isn't exactly a new work --- cell phones are a novelty, and
laserdiscs are the latest technology --- but probably won't
care.

Wickham gets the country-house ambience and the golf club culture
just right, and the satire of Fleur's character and of the family
in which she finds herself is balanced perfectly with Zara's
genuine longing for home and Richard's son's insecurities and
desire for acceptance. Although the ending wraps up a little too
quickly to be totally satisfying, Wickham also leaves some loose
ends intentionally untied, keeping Fleur true to her character and
keeping the novel from verging into fairy-tale territory. Those who
prefer their chick-lit with some bite will sink their teeth into
THE GATECRASHER's modern-day comedy of manners.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on January 22, 2011

The Gatecrasher
by Madeleine Wickham

  • Publication Date: May 27, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
  • ISBN-10: 0312381077
  • ISBN-13: 9780312381073