Review – Shopgirl

Shopgirl by Steve Martin


From Publisher’s Weekly

Movie star Martin shone in the comic essays of last year’s Pure Drivel but can he write serious fiction? His debut novella gives fans a chance to find out. Shy, depressed, young, lonely and usually broke, Vermont-bred Mirabelle Butterfield sells gloves at the Beverly Hills Neiman Marcus (nobody ever buys); at night, she watches TV with her two cats. Martin’s slight plot follows Mirabelle’s search for love, or at least romance and companionship, with middle-aged Ray Porter, a womanizing Seattle millionaire who may, or may not, have hidden redeeming qualities. Also in and out of Mirabelle’s life are a handful of supporting characters, all of them lonely and alienated, too. There’s her father, a dysfunctional Vietnam vet; the laconic, unambitious Jeremy; and Mirabelle’s promiscuous, body-obsessed co-worker Lisa. Detractors may call Martin’s plot predictable, his characters stereotypes. Admirers may answer that – as in Douglas Coupland – these aren’t stereotypes but modern archetypes, whose lives must be streamlined if they are to represent ours. Except for its love-hate relations with L.A., little about this book sounds much like Martin; its anxious, sometimes flat prose style can be affecting or disorienting, and belongs somewhere between Coupland and literary chroniclers of depression like Lydia Davis. Martin’s first novel is finally neither a triumph nor a disaster: it’s yet another of this intelligent performer’s attempts to expand his range, and those who will buy it for the name on the cover could do a lot worse.

My thoughts –

I actually really enjoyed this novella.  For such a short book, there was a definite depth to Mirabelle that many longer books don’t have with their main characters.  I really liked her – she knew that she was a depressed person who gets lonely easily, yet she still set out from her hometown in Vermont to live on her on in Los Angeles.  Her entire relationship with Ray Porter just made me sad (if you read it, you will see why I say that) but it was written very well.  By that I mean that, unfortunately, many of us have gotten ourselves into similar types of relationships, and kept them going for far too long.  This book just really drew me in, I enjoyed most of the characters and I cared deeply about how Mirabelle would turn out in the end.  I could have finished it in an afternoon, so it’s a very quick read, but well worth it in the end.

Rating – 9/10