The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic

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For the film adaptation, see Confessions of a Shopaholic (film).
The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic
Author Sophie Kinsella
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Comedy, Chick lit
Followed by Shopaholic Abroad

The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic (2000) (Confessions of a Shopaholic in the United States and India) is the first in the popular Shopaholic series. It is a chick-lit novel by Sophie Kinsella, a pen-name of Madeleine Wickham. It focuses on the main character Rebecca (Becky) Bloomwood, a financial journalist, who is in a serious amount of debt through her shopping addiction.

Plot summary[edit]

Rebecca Bloomwood lives in a flat in fashionable Fulham, London, that is owned by her best friend Suze's wealthy, aristocratic parents.[1][dead link] Becky works as a financial journalist for the magazine Successful Savings, that is a job that Becky dislikes. She says that no one who works there is very excited about and that they all say they have just "fell into", while in fact being unable to get better jobs.[1] The job bores her. Becky admits to actually knowing very little about personal finance as she is thousands of pounds in debt as is evidenced by a run through of her Visa card bill. She becomes deeper in debt by uncontrollably spending on designer homeware, clothes and beauty products.[2][dead link] The book emphasises that her cycle of debt is not easily broken, as, even as she is thousands of pounds in debt, Becky still receives letters offering her credit and department store cards.[1] She often rationalises her overspending,[1] for instance by referring to items as an 'investment' or necessary. Unfortunately for Becky, she considers things such as birthday presents for her friends as necessary.

On her way to a press conference held by Brandon Communications, Becky notices a sale sign in the window of the Denny and George shop. She sees that the scarf she has long craved for is on sale at a discount of 50%. Becky sees this as a unique opportunity but realises that she has left her Visa card at the office and asks the shop assistant to reserve the scarf until she can retrieve her credit card. The assistant reluctantly agrees to hold it until the end of the day only.

Upon arriving at the press conference, she is greeted by a staff member of Brandon Communications, who mentions that there's been some surprising news in the banking field and asks Becky her opinion on the news. Becky has no idea what the woman is referring to and has to feign knowledge. After the staffer leaves, Luke Brandon, head of Brandon Communications, realising that she was feigning knowledge of what was happening, tells her that one financial group recently bought another, and it was recently rumoured that Flagstaff Life was going the same way.

Halfway through the conference Becky is given another errand by her employer and realises that she will not have time to return to the office for her credit card, but only needs twenty pounds more to buy her Denny & George scarf. She asks her friend Elly Granger if she can borrow some money, but Elly has none. Luke hears Becky ask for twenty pounds, and stops the whole Press Conference just so he can hand a twenty-pound note to her, once she has made up a story of needing the money to buy a present for her aunt who is in hospital. Right after she has bought the Denny & George scarf she bumps into Luke Brandon and has to make excuses to leave, before he finds out that she's lied.

Later on during the week, Becky's flatmate Suze asks her to go to a restaurant with her and her cousins, including Tarquin. There, Becky sees Luke and his parents having dinner. The mother comments on Becky's scarf, and she blabs about getting it as a bargain. Then she realises her mistake, and abruptly tells a suspicious Luke that her aunt died. Becky is mortified.

Luke runs into Becky after that and asks her to come shopping with him at Harrods. Initially she really enjoys shopping with him for luggage and goes up and down the shop wheeling around the luggage playfully, helping Luke choose the best purchase. After he reveals that the luggage is actually for his girlfriend, Sacha, Becky is very upset, telling Luke that she feels he's used her and not treated her with respect.

Throughout the story, a man named Derek Smeath, who is the manager of Becky's bank, is constantly trying to get hold of her so he can set up a re-payment schedule for her overdraft. Becky always has some excuse as to why she cannot send a cheque or meet with Mr. Smeath and his assistant, Erica. The excuses range from a broken leg, a dead aunt, etc., etc., until it becomes obvious to Mr. Smeath that Becky is quite unable to repay the overdraft. He becomes quite insistent upon setting up a meeting with her.

Suze and Becky happen to be flicking through a magazine and see a list of eligible millionaires. Tarquin is the fifteenth richest there, but also on the list happens to be Luke Brandon. Tarquin asks Becky out, while there Tarquin compliments Becky on her scarf and she continues the pretense that it's from her deceased aunt. She further embroiders that her aunt had set up a charity for children abroad to be given violin teachers. Tarquin writes out a cheque for £5000, which would solve Becky's financial problems, but she feels she can't possibly accept it, and painfully refuses. While Tarquin goes to the bathroom, Becky sneaks a look at his chequebook, wondering if a millionaire gets to buy a lot of lavish items. The content isn't extraordinary. Tarquin returns and Becky is sure he saw her looking at the chequebook.

Becky gives up trying to date Tarquin, as he is just not her type, even if he is very rich.

At this point her bank manager is trying to arrange a meeting. Unable to come up with any more excuses, Becky goes back home to hide at her parents' house, lying to them when he calls and saying he is a stalker, Becky learns that her next door neighbours made a financial decision based on advice that Becky had absentmindedly given them and stand to miss out on thousands of pounds in a windfall resulting from a bank takeover. The bank had sent an offer of a carriage clock to people who would get the windfall, if they change their account to a different plan. The bank knew of the planned takeover and upcoming windfall, while the customers do not, but if they accepted the plan for which they are offered a gift, the customers will not receive the windfall. Becky is horrified by being partly culpable for her kindly neighbours losing out, and sets out to make things right by writing an article that exposes the bank's duplicity. The article is a success, and leads to Becky appearing on a daytime television show, The Morning Coffee. Unfortunately, Becky did not know that the bank was a client of Luke Brandon's PR firm. Luke became very angry with her, and thought she wrote the article just to get back at him for treating her poorly. Becky and Luke square off during her appearance on The Morning Coffee. After arguing with Becky, Luke conceded that she was right, the bank had defrauded their customers. So Luke Brandon announces that Brandon Communications will no longer be representing that bank. Becky gets a regular slot on the show.

Luke Brandon invites Becky out for a seeming business dinner at the Ritz Hotel. When Becky arrives at their meeting, business is not on the agenda and instead they eat their fill of the food, including a selection of all the puddings they liked the sound of, and then end up spending the night at the Ritz together. Becky has to miss yet another meeting arranged with her bank manager, but he writes and tells her this can be postponed, as due to her regular slot on television, her finances are now rosy. But the bank manager, Derek Smeath, will continue to keep an eye on her account.

Critical reception[edit]

The earlier novels in the series received a generally positive reception from critics.

One review considered it to be clever that Kinsella begins each chapter with an ominous letter to Becky from her bank.[1]

Readers seemed to like Becky, care about what was happening to her, as if for a friend.[3][dead link] While she has faults, she is 'irresistibly daft. '[4][dead link] When it comes to reviewing this book, many agree that Sophie Kinsella has managed to combine two essential ingredients that make for a favourite among readers: abundant flashes of reality and a witty sense of humour. Women identified with the character and her situation. Reviews encouraged readers to 'stick to' these earlier books in the series, considering them better than the later books which appeared to have been written excessively quickly, although they would still satisfy those already faithful to the series.[5][dead link]

Film adaptation[edit]

A film adaptation of the novels starring Isla Fisher as Becky Bloomwood, Hugh Dancy as Luke Brandon, and Krysten Ritter as Suze was released on 13 February 2009.[6]

Differences between Novels and Film[edit]

  • Story in the film is in New York, while in the novels it's entirely in England.
  • Becky is a brunette and has hazel eyes whom is from Surrey, England in the novel. Her film counterpart is American with red haired and brown eyes.
  • Unlike the film, Becky's parents, Graham and Jane, are very cautious with their spending. They also tell Becky to shape up and save her money or make more money.
  • In the novels, Alicia Billington is introduced as a senior executive at Brandon Communications, who gradually reveals her true colors in Shopaholic Abroad. She is despised by Becky and Suze(whom has a bitter history with her) and is nicknamed Alicia Bitch Long-Legs because of her uncaring nature. In the film, Alicia was introduced as a rival of Becky's whom got a job at a fashion magazine that she wanted. She slowly becomes more fearful and jealous of Becky whom she believes her boss, Allete Naylor, is more interested in hiring after she helpfully accessorize a dress she was planning to buy.
  • In the novels, Becky's bank manager at Endwich Bank, Derek Smeath, is described as professional and polite, though at times very persistent with wanting a meeting concerning her debts. In the end, they work out a deal. In the film, though starting out like his novel counterpart, Smeath becomes more antagonistic each time Becky tries to avoid a meeting with him concerning her credit card debts.
  • In the novels, Suze is described as being a blonde and from an aristocratic family. In the film, she is artistic, rich and brunette.
  • Unlike the film, Luke Brandon was introduced as the owner of Brandon Communications.
  • In the novels, Suze and Tarquin are cousins who gradually begin dating each other. In the film, they're in a relationship.
  • In the 1st novel, Philip is Becky's boss at Successful Savings and was omitted from the film.
  • In the 1st novel, Becky works for Successful Savings. In the film however, she is seen working at a gardening magazine.
  • In the 1st novel, Becky wrote an article on the British tabloid, The Daily World, exposing Flagstaff Life's duplicity on their customers. Luke was infuriated with her, believing Becky only was getting him back for mistreating her at Harrods. On the Morning Coffee and after arguing his case, Luke finally admitted Becky was right and that Brandon C won't continue being a client to a bank that defrauds their customers. In the film, they only discuss about The Girl with the Green Scarf.
  • Several minor plots were left out in the film, including Luke and Becky's trip to Harrods to pick out suitcases for his girlfriend, Suze's natural talent in framework that leads to a business, Becky helping her kindly neighbors with their pension issues and her attempt to make more money to pay off her debts by working at a clothing store, which lead to her being fired because she tried to hide a fashionable zebra print jeans that a customer was interested in buying because Becky wanted the pants for herself.
  • The film omits characters from the first novel, such as Martin and Janice Webster (as well as their son, Tom and his girlfriend Lucy), the Bloomwoods' next door neighbors and close friends as well as Luke's then-girlfriend, Sacha de Bonneville and Becky's other friend, Elly Granger.
  • Unlike the film, Becky never went to a support group and actually tried to cut back on her spending or make more money.
  • Luke and Becky went to New York in Shopaholic Abroad and not Miami like in the film.
  • The Denny & George scarf in the novels is described as blue-grey in color. The film version is green.
  • In the 2nd novel, it is Alicia that intentionally ruins Becky's TV career by exposing her in a humiliating article about her being a shopaholic. This leads to her ousting on The Morning Coffee and being replaced by Clare Edwards. In the film version, she helps Smeath humiliate Becky publicly. In both versions, Alicia is fired from her job(Luke fires her and four other colleagues in the novels for their action in ruining Brandon C's standing with their clients, while in the film, Alette fires her for Becky's public humiliation).
  • Unlike the film, Becky never accepted a job at Brandon C. and was a personal shopper at Barneys New York in Manhattan.
  • In the 2nd novel, Suze merely suggests that Becky gets rid of some unnecessary possessions she has. Becky comes up with a better idea after seeing a commercial, sell off her possessions instead. In the film, Becky's support group tells her sell off her items.
  • Unlike the film, Becky's bridesmaid dress is made by her designer friend, Danny Kovitz, which she helps start his career.

Shopaholic Series[edit]

The Shopahoclic series as of October, 2014 consists of seven novels, in order: