The Burnout

The Burnout by Sophie Kinsella

I recently read Sophie Kinsella's latest book The Burnout. (If you're thinking the cover looks odd it's because I accidentally reserved a large print edition from the library. Having said that, I'm very fond of large print, since it means I don't have to wear my glasses to read!). I've been a fan of Sophie Kinsella since the days when she wrote as Madeleine Wickham and I have copies of Cocktails for Three, The Gatecrasher, The Wedding Girl, Swimming Pool Sunday and The Tennis Party on my bookshelves. It took me a while to discover she was writing under another name and, as I'm not a fan of shopping, her Shopaholic series passed me by. I joined in again with The Undomestic Goddess, Twenties Girl and Remember Me.  Anyway, back to The Burnout. It's an an absolute hoot and literally had me laughing out loud. 

I think we can all relate to Sasha, the poor over-worked, stressed-out heroine who struggles to do the job of several people and feels like she's drowning in endless emails. When she finally snaps (there's a wonderful scene when she's being chased down the street by a nun) she takes some time out and goes back to the seaside resort where she spent holidays as a child. But the once grand Rilston Hotel has gone to seed and its cast of mad staff would give Fawlty Towers a run for its money. My particular favourite is Cassidy, the receptionist with no filter, who sews seriously dodgy thongs to keep herself occupied when it's quiet.

Sasha tries to fast-track herself back to health by following an app with an impossible 20 Step Plan to happiness and wellbeing. Inevitably she finds that wine, chocolate and surfing work better the kale smoothies, yoga and wild swimming - as does falling in love. Because while she's unsuccessfully trying to follow the plan Sasha meets fellow-guest Finn, who's also in dire need of a rest cure. They succeed in really winding each other up - a sure sign that they're destined to be together. 

It's not all just laughs though. The reason Sasha hasn't been back to Rilston Bay for twenty years is that family holidays there ended after her father died, so being back dredges up a lot of long-buried memories and emotions. There's also a particularly poignant thread about an inspirational surf teacher who is now an old man with dementia. Add to that a half-forgotten kayak accident, mysterious messages written in the sand and a famous painting that isn't quite what it seems and there's plenty to keep everyone guessing and thoroughly entertained.