11 January 2012

Book Review: Pear Shaped by Stella Newman

"If you found yourself glued to David Nicholls’s One Day or belting out the lyrics to Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black then you’ll love this book.

Girl meets boy.

Girl loses boy.

Girl loses mind.

Sophie Klein walks into a bar one Friday night and her life changes. She meets James Stephens: charismatic, elusive, and with a hosiery model ex who casts a long, thin shadow over their burgeoning relationship. He’s clever, funny and shares her greatest pleasure in life – to eat and drink slightly too much and then have a little lie down. Sophie’s instinct tells her James is too good to be true – and he is."

As I've mentioned before, I love reading debut novels, and I especially love it when I see people say "It's brilliant!" and "it had me laughing out loud!" about a debut novel before I read it. Therefore, when I received a proof copy of the debut from Stella Newman, I was really excited because I'd heard really good things about it, and the blurb sounded really good. Imagine my disappointment when by the end, I found myself really annoyed the drippiness (is that even a word?!) of the main character Sophie, her apparent inability to keep away from her emotionally abusive boyfriend and thinking that the book doesn't really send out a good message to its readers?! I really did want to like this book but despite it having its good moments, I felt it was let down a lot by the character and her actions which was such a shame!

Sophie Klein is happy when she meets older man, James Stephens. He seems to have a great personality, has plenty of money to treat Sophie and make her feel like a Princess but the fact is that he's a pig. He's an awful, hideous human being and possibly one of the worst male characters I have EVER read in chick lit before. Now, I read 119 books last year, and I didn't read a character as awful and horrible as James Stephens, he would most definitely get the award for "Worst Male Character EVER" and I really don't quite know what Newman was thinking as she was writing him. He was nasty to Sophie, put her down, made her feel too fat when she was skinny and was constantly indecisive. Why oh why would you want to stay with someone who makes you feel like that? I just couldn't understand Sophie's obsession, especially when you see her fall apart as a character in front of your eyes.

Sophie has a fabulous job working for a supermarket producing yummy deserts, and I have to say the scenes set at her workplace were the best in the book without a doubt. It was great reading Sophie's different relationships with her colleagues, in particular her awful boss (again another awful male character) and also the funny taste testing events that she goes on are brilliant. The descriptions of the desserts are amazing, and they sound so scrummy! Despite all of this, she puts her job at risk because of this stupid man and her inability to get over him, however badly he treats her again and again, and how many times her friends have to tell her he isn't good news. I found it hard work in places to keep reading on because I was getting angry at Sophie and the way she behaves. No, she doesn't care that James is a rich guy and can buy her anything she wants, can build her a dream kitchen but at the end of the day, anyone who speaks to her like he speaks to Sophie doesn't deserve a woman like her but she can't see it.

Overall, I have to say I was disappointed with Stella Newman's debut - perhaps it's just me finding her relationship with James to be a complete sham and that he is an absolutely awful character, but I did find it hard to enjoy. It felt a bit too long to me, it dragged in places and Sophie seemed to keep doing the same things over and over when she's moping over awful James, and it was a struggle to plough on at times. There was a lot of dialogue as well, and it did feel a bit heavy at times with it. The good parts of the book were good, although certainly not really funny in the way I hoped, and I don't think it really gives out a good message that going back to emotionally abusive men is a good idea. I loved the cover and had expected so much so it kills me to write a negative review of it, but the problems I had with it just really outweighed my enjoyment of the good bits. It's meant to be a look at people's relationships with food, and their self-image, of which Sophie seems to have none, but for me these more important elements are over-shadowed by the sotyr of her ridiculous relationship with James. Fully expect to hate James, and want to give Sophie a good talking to as you're reading. Bit of a shame for me! :(

Rating: 2.5/5

You can pre-order Pear Shaped as both a paperback and as an eBook now (links go to Amazon.co.uk)


  1. I've read books where a character is so awful that you wonder if you're going to carry on reading the book or starting tearing the pages out in frustration. Not only that, you want to slap the main character silly for not waking up to the situation that you as a reader can see from a mile away. However, I find that, and this is just my opinion, when just looking at the writing- it is usually very good. So ignoring the storyline, if I can muster up that much energy in me to be so frustrated and angry at a fictional novel, then something was right about the writing.

    By the sounds of it, as well, she did an excellent job of making the whole situation realistic. I've known a couple of girls who've been in this destructive relationship and you sit there banging your head against the wall that they would allow this to happen, but they're too close to it to see it happening. They probably would even be the first ones to say something if this was happening to another girl.

    Maybe this book might just be a helping hand for one of these girls. They pick it up and start to realise just how bad their relationship is by seeing how similar it is to this character's.

  2. I meant to add that this was an excellent review too. Can totally to relate to everything you said! :)

  3. Absolutely loved this book! Yes, James is a HORROR, and "an awful, hideous human being" AND one of the "Worst Male Characters EVER" is totally right, but I think that's why I liked it so much. How many boyfriends of friends have you met when you just couldn't work out why they were together? When you could see how dreadful they were, but your friend insisted he wasn't what you thought? How you can click so much with one person but ultimately they are never someone you even like? I think she got it bang on - I was shaking with rage and frustration as I read it. And agree that you want to give Sophie a talking to, but - again - I thought that was a strength.

    As I say, I'm a fan of this book.

  4. I haven't read this yet, but have pre ordered it, I am looking forward to this.

  5. I agree with everything already said here!

    It took me 5 hours to read this book (although I was trying to avoid an essay).

    I don't know whether Sophie's stupidity was to provoke rage or was just a poorly written character. My mind is not quite made up. I did really enjoy the book, it appeared quite realistic in its portrayal of such abusive relationships, it is something which does bound a marginal of under confident yet successful women. I know - I am one of them, yet I escaped quickly!

    BUT If you are simply displaying something, it doesn't mean you are still not trying to convey a message to the reader. There were so many opportunities for the main character to escape her situation. She had countless admirers.

    I think perhaps, the messages are very deep within the text, and this writer is more clever that we first presume.