I am not a big chick lit fan (I couldn’t even finish the novel that invented chick lit, Bridget Jones’s Diary, although I enjoyed the movie…). That sums it up: I like to spend two hours watching a romantic comedy, I just usually have no patience for reading it. Am I becoming to old for this… Chick lit? Anyway, in the case of Sophie Kinsella, I had so much fun reading the Shopaholic series that I just wanted to give this one a try…

Emma Corrigan, a twenty-five-year-old marketing assistant, has a few secrets: she is a size twelve and not eight as she told her boyfriend Connor, whom she secretly calls Ken (as in Ken and Barbie) and whom she is not in love with. She is not comfortable wearing G strings, and she feeds her mean colleague Artemis’s plant orange juice… among many other things. Flying back from her first business trip in Glasgow, Emma believes she is about to die: the plane is caught in turbulence, and she confides all her secrets to the man in the next seat…

Safely back in London, Emma is so surprised by Connor asking her to move in with her that she accepts. A bigger surprise awaits her at work on the following day: the man who founded Panther, the company she works for, is visiting for the week. It turns out he is the man who was next to her on the plane, the receiver of her innermost secrets. And it also turns out Emma is not the only one to have secrets…

I could identify many influences in Can you keep a Secret?: from Pretty Woman to Bridget Jones’s Diary (and why do I keep picturing Colin Firth as the Jack Harper, the main male protagonist? Maybe because Can you keep a Secret? is really a lot like Bridget Jones’s Diary…). Unfortunately, it also doesn’t compare with the Shopaholic series. Kinsella had come up with a great idea and funny characters, which she managed to keep bouncing for two sequels. Here, with her new characters, she seems to have lost her touch a bit. She tries too hard showing that Emma is NOT Becky Bloomwood: she buys second-hand clothes (Becky buys new and expensive!), and she makes a point of paying off her debts (while Becky makes a point of forgetting them!), but ultimately, she is a lot like Becky, though less spicy. And does the typical heroine of a chick lit novel have to be quite ignorant and not very bright? (this trait didn’t strike me as much in Becky…) I also missed Kinsella’s knack for introducing particularly good villains. Can you keep a Secret? also has bad guys: Emma’s cousin and Artemis, her colleague, but we just don’t see enough of their villainy… Can you keep a Secret? focuses too much on the love story, whereas in the Shopaholic series, witty dialogues and comic situations are predominant, the love story only in the background. Well, I probably shouldn’t compare, but I cannot help it. Well, Can you keep a Secret? is still a fun, light read and I am convinced it would make a good movie. My advice: don’t buy it, borrow it or wait for the paperback and for the next volume in the Shopaholic series! (Shopaholic & Sister, released on September 2004)

Rating: 3/5