Magazine article The Spectator

Mating on Thin Ice

Magazine article The Spectator

Mating on Thin Ice

Article excerpt

ONLY PRETENDING by Sophia Watson Holder, (16.99, pp. 309

What a refreshing read Only Pretending makes. How thrilling to find a modern female novelist who is not drearily preoccupied with finding Mr Right. Penny, the well-heeled heroine, is already lumbered with Mr All Right, but is becoming increasingly fed up with him. Her frustration arises from the fact that John, her husband, is never there. He is a celebrity explorer of the remote regions of the world; the only times he shows up in the book are when his Mills-and-Boon-hero looks are glimpsed on the television screen. While the world gasps at his latest exploits braving polar bears in the Arctic wastes, Penny remains staunchly unimpressed. When friends and colleagues twitter that she must be so proud of her husband, she cannot avoid wincing. Night after night, she sits alone in her Notting Hill flat, knocking back the G and Ts, craving company until it finally arrives in the form of her stepson, Terence.

Terence turns up on her doorstep from Ireland. He has no work, no friends and no clear notion of why he has come to London. At first, Penny is delighted to have someone with whom to chat, but gradually Terence's petulant spying and angry outbursts plant seeds of discontent in her mind. She has less and less to say to her husband during his crackly mobile phone calls from the North Pole, and more and more to say to the celebrity male artists with whom she works in her PR company. Her friends advise her to stay faithful to her absent spouse, but the Quentin Tarrantino-style Italian film-maker and the soulful English writer who pester her for dinner dates are hard to resist.

Penny's working life is vividly described. Endless free phone calls, dinners with impossibly handsome, artistic men, grovelling secretaries uncomplainingly fetching cappuccinos, delicious office gossip and even tastier lunches on account. The more weary Penny becomes of her life, the more envious the reader grows of Penny's.

Herbie, her boss, is saddled with a depressed wife, Christine, who robotically churns out cordon bleu cuisine but is unable to make conversation save light chit-chat. …

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