Review

Sleeping Arrangements

by Madeleine Wickham

Chloe is just about ready to pull her hair out, so her family's
Spanish vacation is coming at a perfect time. She, her partner
Philip, and her two kids, Sam and Nat, desperately need the time
away, so she's thankful that her old friend Gerard has offered them
his villa. All of a sudden a little unsettled about the fact that
she and Philip have been together for years but never gotten
married, Chloe wants to use the trip to figure out what their
relationship means. Philip needs to stop worrying about work and
just relax, but it's hard knowing that your bank has just been
bought out by a bigger company and no one knows yet who will be
fired.

Hugh Stratton is looking for the chance to finally get to know his
two young daughters, Octavia and Beatrice. He needs a break from
his busy job at a large conglomerate bank. His wife, Amanda, just
needs to calm down and de-stress. She feels like a single mother
and is quite the control freak, keeping tabs on the staff
remodeling her house while they're gone. She's even hired a nanny,
Jenna, to watch the girls so that she and Hugh can have some
quality time alone.

The Strattons have just managed to find the villa and settle down
and relax when strangers drive up to the door, claiming that it's
their villa. It could be a simple mistake, except they all know
Gerard. They decide that the only thing to do is to try to fit all
nine of them in the house. It's big enough, physically, but it can
barely contain all of the personalities inside.

It wouldn't be all that awful to share a vacation with another
family, except no one knows that Chloe and Hugh have a history
together. As they're grappling with what being back together means,
Chloe's 16-year-old son Sam is smitten with Jenna, whose attempts
at relaxing everyone ("Stocking up on the old cigarettes and booze.
Joke!") just makes them even more tense. Then another connection
between the two families surfaces --- this time between the men.
Both families are more and more annoyed, and the couples are
oblivious to the kids and Jenna learning that maybe this wasn't a
mistake after all.

SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS is an entertaining romp akin to any comedy of
manners. If Shakespeare lived now and dealt with children, nannies,
vacations and layoffs, he'd be proud. There's just enough comedy
and romance to make this book about a vacation a perfect vacation
read. Or beach read. Or weekend read. Wickham, who also writes as
Sophie Kinsella, is an old pro at comedic tales that surpass the
normal boundaries of chick lit. The story and its characters are
lovable and dimensional. Everyone in it is grounded and human, and
no one walks into the story with a Cinderella life that can't be
explained. These are all people with complicated histories, which
do even more for the relationships they have and develop with the
others.

Love and marriage, sang Frank Sinatra, go together like a horse and
carriage. But it's much more complicated than that, says Wickham.
Her novel shows us the many nuances that come with any
long-lasting, functional relationship. Still a quick enough read,
SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS will leave any reader satisfied.

Reviewed by Sarah Hannah Gómez (hannahgomez@gmail.com) on January 23, 2011

Sleeping Arrangements
by Madeleine Wickham

  • Publication Date: July 8, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
  • ISBN-10: 0312383428
  • ISBN-13: 9780312383428