Review of “Surprise Me” by Sophie Kinsella

Sylvie and Dan Winter have been together for ten years, married for seven of them, and have a set of five-year-old twins. Sylvie says “We’ve always been that couple. Blended. Intertwined.” But on the tenth anniversary of their relationship, everything changes. It begins when they both get their annual physicals and the doctor predicts they will both live long lives: “You should have sixty-eight more wonderful years of marriage!”

Instead of heartening them, it fills them with anxiety. How will they maintain interest in one another?

Dan works out how many more times they will have sex: 11,000. “Give or take.” And they enjoy sex, and in fact have sex to celebrate their longevity. The sex is great. But as Sylvie says after they do, “. . . it was amazing. And I do love him. But – totally, absolutely honestly – there’s also another tiny voice in my head. Saying: One down. Only another 10,999 times to go.”

Sylvie decides they are living in “a marital Groundhog Day” and they need to mix things up: “We need to be jolted and entertained and challenged with lots of little surprises. And then the next sixty-eight years will whiz by. Yes. This is it!”

But there is trouble in paradise, and the surprises don’t all turn out positive. For one thing, Sylvie is convinced Dan dislikes her family, particularly her needy mother and the memory of Sylvie’s late father. Sylvie was a daddy’s girl; she thought of her dad as handsome, dapper, and charming. He died two years before in a car crash, but Sylvie remains bereft, and even still keeps her hair long, like Rapunzel, because that’s how her dad liked it. She thinks Dan resents her relationship with her dad and her dad’s elan and financial success.

After a contentious day they spent with Sylvie’s mother, Sylvie thought: “I can’t possibly contemplate being married to Dan for another sixty-eight years. The last sixty-eight minutes have been bad enough.”

In addition, Sylvie soon comes to believe that Dan already has gotten tired of her, and is having an affair. She thinks it is with an old flame Dan has never mentioned before:

“…all Dan’s former girlfriends [are] logged in my brain, in the same way that FBI agents have America’s Most Wanted. There is not and has never been a Mary. Until now.”

Dan invites Mary and other old friends over for a dinner. Sylvie declares to herself:

“This is officially a Marital Situation. And actually I’m quite freaked out, in a way I really didn’t expect to be.”

So Sylvie does some sleuthing, and finds out there is indeed a lot about Dan she didn’t know. And she has to figure out what to do about it, and to find her own identity in the process.

Evaluation: As with previous books, Sophie Kinsella manages to find delightful humor in sticky domestic circumstances, and to provide many laugh-out-loud moments. I thought the initial premise of this book about longevity was a little hokey, but once the author got into the “meat” of the story, it vastly improved.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published in the U.S. by The Dial Press, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House, 2018

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7 Responses to Review of “Surprise Me” by Sophie Kinsella

  1. Mystica says:

    I think checking out the number of years is a bit quirky but otherwise it sounds humorous.

  2. BermudaOnion says:

    I’m always a little reluctant to pick up a Kinsella book because she’s hit or miss for me. This sounds like it would be worth taking a chance on.

  3. Beth F says:

    When she’s on, she’s a lot of fun to read.

  4. I’ve never read a Kinsella. Maybe one of these days…

  5. Okay, this sounds fun. I’ve been meaning to pick up a Sophie Kinsella book for a gajillion years — like legitimately, since 2006 I think? — and the length of her backlist has always daunted me. Is there a place you’d recommend a brand new newbie should start?

    • The nice thing about Kinsella is that it really doesn’t matter which book you pick up first or in which order. I have found all that I have read charming and funny.

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