Fforde’s latest is a rambling, bighearted novel in which a young Londoner becomes entangled with a wealthy American family.
Sophie is a lovely girl, if a bit too easily pushed around. Her family, a group of self-centered academics, thinks she’s comparatively dim and treats her as their very own Cinderella. Her friends can’t understand why her boyfriends are needy moochers. And Sophie herself would like something more than waiting tables. She has a plan: Save enough money to take a tailoring and business course and open her own shop. But first she must look after Evil Uncle Eric while his housekeeper is away (her family insists—Uncle Eric is loaded, and they are hoping for an inheritance), and then she is off to New York to temporarily nanny for a local family. Uncle Eric proves a doll, but the nannying job falls through, leaving Sophie in New York with her transplanted friend Milly to play out scenes from Sex and the City. At an art opening, Sophie rescues a society matron about to faint. Matilda Winchester, an English war bride, is charmed by Sophie, but her American grandson, Luke, is not. Matilda treats Sophie to a day out and invites her to Thanksgiving dinner at her Connecticut house, but Luke warns Sophie not to get too close—he’s on the lookout for hangers-on. Sophie is undeterred by his rudeness and spends a lovely final week in America at Matilda’s mansion before she heads back to waiting tables and, of course, doing that favor for Matilda. As a child, Matilda stayed in a house on the Cornish coast; the house holds her happiest memories, and she wants Sophie to find it for her. Then Luke ends up in London, and the inevitable romance begins. Thinly crafted plot devices tear them apart before the same reunite them. This is a shame, as Sophie is a charmer, and real relationship problems (their differences in class, wealth, values) would have created a far richer romance if there were real jeopardy to the happiness.
Uneven fare from the British Fforde, made forgivable by an appealing heroine.