‘Shall We Dance?’ by Maggie Alderson

Readers may be most familiar with Maggie Alderson through her (now discontinued) column in The Age newspaper’s Good Weekend magazine – it ran for her over a decade and was an unrivalled combination of humour, fashion and modern etiquette. I was very cross when it was canned (and made sure I told The Age) – the weekend newspaper is not the same without Maggie. Thankfully for her fans, Alderson keeps a blog, writes novels and is also what I consider Twitter gold – she tweets in the way one should (i.e. heavy on original and funny thoughts and light on links to random stuff).

Apparently Maggie has a new book on the way – in the meantime, I’ve just finished her last one, Shall We Dance?. It’s about Loulou Landers, London’s undisputed Queen of Vintage Fashion, her tempestuous daughter, Theo, and her ‘romance’ with a man who’s barely half her age – Loulou’s just not ready to ‘go cougar’. Meanwhile, Theo is on the verge of her own spectacularly unsuitable affair.

True to form, Maggie combines fabulous fashion details with a good dose of humour. For example –

“I surveyed that day’s outfit: a navy-on-red jacquard silk polka dot 1980s pussy-bow blouse, with short puff sleeves and huge shoulder pads; navy-blue 1970s Saint Laurent high-waist sailor-style button-front wide-leg pants; and current season Balenciaga platform shoes…. ‘OMIGOD!’ he screamed when he saw me. ‘Nancy Cunard guests on Dynasty! It’s perfect!'”

Each chapter alternates between Loulou and Theo’s points-of-view. In the beginning, I felt Theo’s chapters were too forced – the language was a bit over the top and seemed to be trying a bit hard –

“Loulou Lala mad as always. Fully meno and grumpy. Buzzes me while I was re-reading Polo which canNOT be interrupted – and forces me to go out with old Ritchie perve head. Gasolaroid.”

Thankfully that settled down (or perhaps I got used to it) and Theo emerged as an interesting character with endearing quirks –

“Will put my iPod on shuffle at exactly 6pm and the second song which comes on will tell me whether to go or not.
6.05pm Shit shit shit. It was There She Goes by The Las. I have to. DAMMIT.”

Shall We Dance? is not going to change your world but it is fun, light and without question better than lots of other chick-lit titles cramming the shelves. I still have a soft spot for one of Alderson’s early books, Pants on Fire, and it’s tough to measure up to that one which was hilarious.

Loulou and her best mate, Keith, have a few nice drinks-and-snacks rituals. My favourite is their gin and sweet vermouth combo served with cheddar cheese biscuits. Find the recipe for a Gin & It here, pur yourself one and settle in with Shall We Dance?.

3/5 This score would nudge a four if I was thinking about how it ranks as chick-lit alone. That said, Alderson is so readable, there are lots of laughs and happy endings. Enjoy.

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  1. Pingback: Gin-lit (it’s a thing) | booksaremyfavouriteandbest

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