The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic

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The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic
AuthorSophie Kinsella
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreComedy, Chick lit
Followed byShopaholic 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] Becky works as a financial journalist for the magazine Successful Savings, a job she dislikes.[1] Becky admits to knowing very little about personal finance, and is thousands of pounds in debt due to her uncontrollable spending on designer homeware, clothes and beauty products.[2] 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, but not everyone agrees with it. During a visit to Surrey, her parents order Becky to shape up and cut back on her spending spree or make more money.

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 realizes 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, realizing 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 realizes 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.

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. Luke's stepmother, Annabel, comments on Becky's scarf, and she politely thanks her. Becky claims that her aunt gave it to her in order to avoid Luke being suspicious. Luke runs into Becky after that and asks her to come shopping with him at Harrods. Initially she enjoys shopping with him for luggage, helping Luke choose the best purchase. After he reveals that the luggage is actually for his girlfriend, Sacha, Becky is very upset thinking that he humiliated her. She tells Luke off that she feels he's used her and not treated her with respect.

Suze and Becky happen to be flicking through a magazine and see a list of eligible millionaires, which includes Tarquin and Luke Brandon. Tarquin asks Becky out, and compliments Becky on her scarf. While Tarquin goes to the bathroom, Becky sneaks a look at his checkbook, and is unimpressed by the content. Tarquin returns and Becky is sure he saw her looking at the checkbook. Becky gives up trying to date Tarquin, as he is just not her type, even if he is very rich.

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 unable to repay the overdraft. He becomes quite insistent upon setting up a meeting with her. Unable to come up with any more excuses to avoid meeting the bank manager, Becky goes back home to hide at her parents' house, telling them the bank manager is a stalker. Becky learns that her next door neighbors 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. Becky is horrified by being partly culpable 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 is angry with her, believing 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 concedes that she was right, and announces that Brandon Communications will no longer be representing that bank. Becky gets a regular slot on the show and finally talks to Mr. Smeath. After apologizing for her behavior, she and Smeath agree to set up a meeting to work out her financial debt.

Luke 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 and 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.


Becky Bloomwood: the main character and protagonist in the story. Although she works as a financial journalist, she also has significant debts concerning her credit cards and her constant overdrafts. Despite it, nothing stops her from buying new clothes, shoes and new items which others think are unnecessary.

Susan "Suze" Cleath-Stuart: Becky's aristocratic best friend who keeps an eye on her spending spree. She is described as blonde and is an even worse shopaholic than Becky. In Shopaholic Abroad, it's revealed that Suze and Alicia have a bitter history and of which she blamed the latter for wrongly getting her fired just because she was originally up for promotion by Luke.

Luke Brandon: The CEO and owner of Brandon Communications. He is described by Becky as being 6'4, dark hair and dark eyes. Luke originally dated Sacha de Bonneville before dating Becky.

Alicia Billington: Luke's employee at Brandon Communications and is described by Becky as being blonde and long-legs. This earns her the nickname Alicia Bitch Long-Legs because she's selfish and uncaring of others. Alicia and Suze have a bitter history with each other when they first worked at Brandon C as PRs. She was responsible for an incident that got Suze wrongly fired just because she wanted the promotion for herself. Alicia and four others involved in her scam are later fired by Luke for her plans in ruining Brandon C.'s reputation.

Graham and Jane Bloomwood: Becky's parents who are extremely cautious of their spending and tells her to shape up by cutting back on her spending spree or make more money. In "Shopaholic and Sister" Becky learns that Graham had a previous relationship with a woman named Marguerite and that she had a half-sister named Jessica "Jess" Bertram.

Philip: Becky's boss at Successful Savings who hasn't promoted Becky and chosen Clare Edwards instead due to her lack of responsibility.

Clare Edwards: Becky's co-worker whom Philip had promoted based on how she takes her job seriously. She later replaces Becky as a financial expert in "Shopaholic Abroad"

Derek Smeath: Becky's manager at Endwich Bank. He is described as polite and professional, but also persistent whenever she refuses to meet him for a meeting. In the end, she and Smeath work out a meeting with each other.

Tarquin Cleath-Stuart: Suze's cousin whom Becky tried to date, but realizes he's not her type. He and Suze later get married in "Shopaholic Ties the Knot". They have three children.

Martin and Janice Webster: Close friends and neighbors of the Bloomwoods.

Tom Webster: Martin and Janice's son. He originally was dating Lucy until she dumped him in "Shopaholic and Sister". Since "Shopaholic and Baby" Tom has dated Becky's older half-sister, Jessica, and in "Mini Shopaholic" they married in Chile. They have plans to adopt first, which even Becky fully supports, but Janice insists they have a natural child first.

Lucy: Tom's girlfriend from the first novel and later fiancée by "Shopaholic Ties The Knot". She later dumps him at the beginning of "Shopaholic and Sister" and hasn't been heard from since then.

Elly Granger: Becky's other friend who only makes her appearance in this novel. She asks Elly for some money, but she has none.

Sacha de Bonneville: Luke's French girlfriend whom he buys an expensive luggage set based on Becky's recommendations at Harrods. She later dumps him at the end of the first novel, also making her a one-time character.

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] While she has faults, she is 'irresistibly daft. '[4] 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]

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] The film focused on some plots, while eliminating others to make room for the 2nd novel's plot Shopaholic Abroad.

Differences between Film and Novel[edit]

  • The novel takes place in England, while the film is in the United States.
  • In the novel, Becky is a brunette with green eyes, while in the film, she's a redhead and has brown eyes.
  • In the novel, Becky describes Luke as 6'4 with dark hair and brown eyes, with a frown on his face. In the film, while retaining his dark hair, Luke's eyes are blue and is only 5'11.
  • In the novel, the Denny and George scarf that Becky purchases is described as being blue-gray. In the film, it's green.
  • In the novel, Becky works at Successful Savings a job she describes as being boring and just fell into, while in the film, she works at a gardening magazine.
  • The film omits the Webster family who are good friends of the Bloomwoods. As well as Martin and Janice's son, Tom, and his then fiancée, Lucy.
  • Becky's boss at Successful Savings in the novel, Philip, is also omitted and replaced by Luke, who in the novel owns Brandon Communications.
  • In the novel, Derek Smeath, is polite and professional, though at times persistent concerning Becky's debt issues. In the end, the two manages to work out a meeting. In the film, Smeath becomes more antagonistic each time Becky avoids meeting him.
  • The novel introduces Alicia Billington, a senior executive employee at Brandon Communications. She has a bitter history with Suze due to a previous incident(that Alicia caused) that got Suze fired. The film introduces her as a rival of Becky's who got the job at Alette.
  • In the novel, Suze is described as being blonde and aristocratic, although has problems with being a shopaholic. In the film, Suze is brunette and artistic.
  • In the novel, upon learning about the Websters' financial trouble due to her absentminded advice, Becky exposes Flagstaff Life's fraud via the British Tabloid magazine, "The Daily World". After squaring off with Becky on "The Morning Coffee", Luke conceded that she was right and refused to continue representing the bank who defrauds their customers. The film only has them talk about the mysterious girl with the green scarf.
  • Unlike in the film, Becky's parents are more cautious in their spending and tells Becky to shape up by cutting back on her spending or make more money.
  • In the novel, Suze helps make artistic frames, that leads to her having a successful frame business. The film completely omits this.
  • Unlike in the film, Becky never went to a support group for her shopping addiction until the end of the 6th novel, Mini Shopaholic.
  • In the novel, Clare Edwards is described as being boring, pale and smug. Becky never did like her for it. In the film, Clare is more expressive and sympathetic toward Becky concerning her credit card debts since she knows what it's like to be in debt herself. It is she who helps Becky attend a shopaholics support group, which Clare also attends just in case she relapses back to her old way. Because of their similar problems, the two become friends for it.
  • In the novel, Suze and Tarquin are cousins who gradually date and eventually marry. In the film, they're unrelated and are actually lovers.

Shopaholic Series[edit]

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


  1. ^ a b c d e Archived 22 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Archived 20 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Archived from the original on 20 January 2009. Retrieved 5 August 2008. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ Archived from the original on 20 January 2009. Retrieved 5 August 2008. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ [1][dead link]
  6. ^