Holly’s Inbox by Holly Denham (aka Bill Surie)

I am not a book blogger, or a mommy blogger, but I am solicited on occasion by authors and people hoping I will help them promote this or that. I wasn’t at all sure I would have time to do another book review this summer, and when the author of Holly’s Inbox contacted me, I wasn’t sure at all why he chose me. But he assured me that he did indeed wish me to read and review his work, so I agreed.

When the book arrived, I was sorry I had agreed because it was 660 pages long. The last book I tackled that was even close to that length I eventually abandoned out of frustration with a story that I felt could have been told in with a whole lot fewer words.

But, Holly’s Inbox has garnered good reviews from other book bloggers I have followed and who have always seemed to be genuine in their reviews, and it has been a bestseller in the U.K., so I gave it a go.

To quickly summarize via the publisher’s blurb:

Meet Holly Denham. It’s her first day as a receptionist at a London investment bank and inexperienced Holly is struggling. Take a peek at her email and you’ll see why: Holly’s inbox is a daily source of drama. An affair with a sexy VP heats things up at the office, but when Holly’s first flame (who, she thinks, left her in the lurch) gets a job at the same company, complications abound.

How’s a working girl supposed to have a love life with a demanding job, crazy friends, a dysfunctional family, and gossipy colleagues? Not to mention that Holly’s been keeping a secret from everyone – and the past is about to catch up with her.

Written entirely in emails, this compulsively readable UK smash hit will keep you laughing and turning the pages all the way to its surprising and deeply satisfying ending.

Repeatedly compared to Bridget Jones’ Diary, hollysinbox.com became a website phenomenon, with thousands of daily visitors from all over the world. This novel tells Holly’s story in full, and also includes exclusive extra material not available on the site.

The narrative is told via emails between the main character, Holly, her family, friends, and co-workers. And like most emails of strangers, they are hard to follow at first because there is a learning curve as one tries to figure out who is who and to impose some sense of organization on the events unfolding sans third person narrative.

The format I found intriguing really because I like the idea of telling stories using the various means by which people share their lives these days. Young adult authors have been using the idea of telling stories via social media style for some time, so it makes sense that adult authors would eventually head in that direction too. I wish the novel had relied on more than email, but I understand the limitation in terms of the storyline.

The story is the stuff of rom-com, and it’s definitely geared toward the chick-lit crowd, and I pretty quickly lost interest. Not because it wasn’t funny and clever or the story wasn’t credible, but it was just eating up a tremendous amount of my writing time. I dumped Pride, Prejudice and Zombies for more writing time too – frankly I forgo a lot of things for an extra minute or 60 for writing time, so I hope the author doesn’t feel slighted.

I did think it was more interesting than the last book I reviewed – which was chick lit written by a man too coincidentally – so one can take that for what it is worth. Since I am currently trying to write a memoir based on emails, IM’s and blog posts, I can understand how difficult it must have been for the author to transpose the original Holly from her website to a novel and still be true to her essence.

The novel is billed as a Bridget Jones successor and that rings true. It does remind me of the first novel – which I did read – but it allows the reader into the thoughts of all the characters really without the imposition of authorial judgments. Everyone is, more or less, unfiltered.

I would have had a more positive reaction had it not been such a long book. I don’t mean to harp on that fact because it doesn’t seem to have bothered anyone else whose read it, but on the other hand War and Peace is still twice as long so maybe I am just whinging.

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