Review

Azur Like It

by Wendy Holden



Wendy Holden has great fun with British brand and place names: the
country village in FARM FATALE was called Eight Mile Bottom, the
publishing firm in GOSSIP HOUND Hatto & Hatto (v. Chatto &
Windus), and now, in AZUR LIKE IT, the grotty burg of
Slackmucklethwaite, to which hapless heroine and budding journalist
Kate Clegg has been consigned since birth.

Holden's place names are over the top, and so are most of the
characters in this farcical picaresque tale of a girl, her
ambitions, and the comic winds that blow her across the Channel and
into the midst of the glitterati making their yearly pilgrimage to
the Cannes Film Festival. Almost everything that happens is
completely unlikely, from Kate's tryst with
young-roué-down-from-university Nat Hardstone in his recently
and cheesily redecorated room (his outlandish stepmother has hired
a decorator du jour who disguises lack of expertise with yardage
and drapery pins) to her being hired in a small French town by a
fabulously rich elderly widow with a mansion stuffed with priceless
works of art.

About the only thing that rings true in Kate's life is her home
life, where her salt-of-the-Midlands parents and grandmother offer
lots of tea, toast and a hefty dose of reality (not to mention many
oddly knitted garments from Gran). Having overdosed on pots of
Typhoo and slices of cake, the somewhat plump Kate sublimates her
romantic notions in a perfectly dreadful manuscript (Northern
Gigolo) that she keeps tucked beneath her mattress.

After Nate seduces Kate for the slimy purpose of getting her to
purchase airplane tickets to Cannes for the two of them, she thinks
she's finally off to Cannes to cover the film festival for the
Slackmucklethwaite Mercury (which locals dub "The Mockery"). Given
the pickle Kate finds herself in, with no press credentials worth a
franc and no francs to spare, it's no wonder Holden allows her
latest working-girl protagonist to fly off and experience a fairy
tale.

As Kate gradually gets her "sea legs" by the seashore, she finds
out that small towns work pretty much the same way no matter what
language is being spoken, and she learns that she's nowhere near as
dependent on hearth and home as she had believed for her
twentysomething years. She also uncovers a real-estate scandal
connected not only to dear old Slackmucklethwaite, but also to
Holden's dear old stock character, professional celebrity Champagne
D'Vyne. Not one of the plot twists seems probable, but that's
hardly the point.

Reading a Wendy Holden novel is much like entering what the English
call a "Wendy house" (after the tiny shack the lost boys construct
in Peter Pan): the proportions are completely wrong for ordinary
life, but they all work together in their own eccentric way. Holden
has so much fun with her silly place names, puns, and witty
dialogue that it scarcely matters whether or not Kate has grown as
a character --- because the reader is having lots of fun,
too.

Reviewed by Bethanne Kelly Patrick on January 24, 2011

Azur Like It
by Wendy Holden

  • Publication Date: January 27, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Plume
  • ISBN-10: 0452285178
  • ISBN-13: 9780452285170