Review: ‘The Cigarette Girl’ by Carol Wolper

By oldenglishrose - Last updated: Friday, August 20, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

Elizabeth West is twenty-eight, which means she’s just entered The Zone–that seven-year span in a woman’s life when the pressure to find Mr. Right is at its most intense. For Elizabeth, however, the quest is not about Mr. Right so much as it is about Mr. Maybe. And on some nights, all she’s looking for is a little distraction…  What complicates Elizabeth’s quest are the particulars of her situation. She is a writer of testosterone-heavy screenplays–the blow-’em-up vehicles for eight-figure stars and their bad-boy directors–and therefore deals on a daily basis with men who traffic nearly exclusively in bimbos, which, like smog and palm trees, are a fixture of the L.A. landscape. Though her job requires her to sound like one of the boys (sample dialogue: “I don’t deal with dickbrains”), she’s very much a girl, from her cell-phone codependency to her chronic attraction to dangerous men. With her female friends succumbing to marriage or morphing into Spermtrappers (women who hunger to be impregnated–husband optional), Elizabeth finds herself questioning the long-term benefits of remaining an SCU (self-contained unit) and looking with new eyes at the mating options around her.  (Goodreads Summary)

This book, despite not being my sort of thing, started out quite well. The dialogue was reasonably witty and, although there’s no substance to this book at all, it was light and frothy and quite entertaining. Unfortunately it soon went flat as the sharp one-liners gave way to hormone-laden hand-wringing about finding the right man. Not only the ending but a good three quarters of the book were completely dissatisfying.

I objected to the style of writing, which, aside from the aforementioned witty one-liners, was rather dull. Carol Wolper has an incredibly annoying trick of saying “And then I thought this: (insert vapid thought here)” rather than letting the reader experience what the character is thinking. It’s a first person narrative; it’s already obvious that what I’m reading is what the character is thinking, thank you, I don’t need to be told. I also thought that the sections written as screenplay added nothing to the book. They were infrequent enough that they didn’t create a coherent thread running through the book, and their use seemed random rather than a deliberate device to highlight the most important events. When they did come along, they just seemed like a lazy way of writing the same thing, rather than the clever glimpse into the mind of the scriptwriting narrator that they were undoubtedly intended to be.

The Cigarette Girl by Carol Wolper.  Published by Pan, 2000, pp. 336.  Originally published in 1999.

N.B. This is an old review written in 2010 and posted on Goodreads and LibraryThing before I started keeping track of all the books I read here at Old English Rose Reads.  I’ve decided to keep copies here so that this remains a complete record of my reading since I started reviewing books for my own pleasure.

Posted in Book Review • Tags: , , , , Top Of Page

Write a comment