Lara Lington is a typical Sophie Kinsella heroine. A single Londoner, Lara is always reaching for that pie in the sky regardless of whether or not she likes the flavor. Her boyfriend, Josh, broke up with her two months ago, and since then she has been just a wee bit obsessed with A) finding out why he called things off with her, and B) getting back together. He is less than agreeable to these plans, however, and in addition to changing phone numbers to avoid her three texts a day, he has even managed to make her parents aware of her inability to let him go. She never stops to consider that maybe he just isn’t her Mr. Right after all.
Lara has gone into business with her best friend Natalie, a successful headhunter who has opened her own agency. Unfortunately, on vacation in India, she falls in love with a Goan beach bum. Deciding not to return to London, L&N Executive Recruitment is left completely in the hands of Lara, who has absolutely no experience in the field having only jumped on this train because Natalie always made it sound like so much fun.
As the book begins, Lara is accompanying her parents (and sister Tonya, currently a stay-at-home mum who delights in pulling out topics of conversation that highlight Lara’s shortcomings) to the funeral of her great aunt Sadie Lancaster, a woman she hasn’t seen since she was in nappies and whom her parents had practically forgotten. It seems Aunt Sadie had lived in a nursing home since a debilitating stroke in her early 80s. She was 105 when she died and left behind no children, no heirs, and no family save for the few distant relatives who have gathered begrudgingly to pay their respects.
Joining Lara’s family at the service is her father’s brother, Uncle Bill, wife Trudy and their 17-year-old daughter, Diamante. Uncle Bill started Lington’s Coffee (think Starbucks) some 20-odd years ago with “two little coins.” In addition to a global coffee shop monopoly, he has created a successful side business of motivational speaking, career workshops and self-help books based on his premise that anyone can become anything with just 20 pence. His family is trailed by a documentary crew, and they make it plain that it is for this reason only that they are attending the funeral.
The service begins and Lara starts hearing voices. Or rather, a single beseeching voice that keeps asking repeatedly for a necklace. Lara looks around and finally sees a girl, not too far from her own age, but dressed in a style more appropriate for the flapper era, complete with pleats, beads and bob. This is Great Aunt Sadie. And yes, she is a ghost. Lara is the only person who can hear her (although if she gets really close to someone's ear and screams her head off, other people do seem to hear a little voice inside their head), and somehow Sadie manages to convince Lara that her funeral must be put off until they can find her necklace. Lara does this in true bobbling Kinsella form, first accusing the nursing home of murder, then a bearded stranger.
With a brief reprieve from the crematory chamber, Sadie becomes Lara’s new shadow. It seems Sadie is able to appear wherever she wants just by thinking herself there, a trait that comes in handy as these two hapless detectives search for the beautiful necklace Sadie was given by her parents on her 21st birthday. It sounds divine --- rhinestones, strings of yellow beads and, dangling from it all, a dragonfly pendant. Sadie remembers this time of her life as the happiest --- she was in love with a local artist, and he with her, she was young and beautiful, and it was the height of the Jazz Age. As Lara spends more time with her, the rest of her life story comes out, and it soon becomes clear why she recalls those days with such fondness.
As they search, Sadie uses her parlor trick talents to convince Josh to give Lara another go. She also assists Lara in putting her business back on its feet, and when she finds a man she thinks is absolutely divine in a Rudolph Valentino kind of way, she gets Lara set up with Ed, a handsome visiting American, so that she herself can have “one last fling.”
To say any more about what happens from here on out would completely spoil the smoothly laid surprise Kinsella has in store for the reader. Suffice it to say that I am very rarely taken unawares, but I did NOT see what was coming. It was not only delightfully unexpected, but also credible and most well conceived. Every single storyline follows out to wonderful conclusions, and more than a few people get their deserved comeuppance. And Lara? Well, let’s just say she looks smashing in Vintage and finally figures out which pie in the sky is her favorite. TWENTIES GIRL will not disappoint Becky Bloomwood fans, is the perfect book for a lazy beach weekend, and just might end up being responsible for a run on vintage twenties clothes.
Reviewed by Jamie Layton on January 24, 2011