The Dial Press
July 1 , 2018
Blurb: After ten years together, Sylvie and Dan have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, and beautiful twin girls, and they communicate so seamlessly they finish each other’s sentences. They have a happy marriage and believe they know everything there is to know about each other. Until it’s casually mentioned to them that they could be together for another sixty-eight years . . . and panic sets in.
They decide to bring surprises into their marriage to keep it fresh and fun. But in their pursuit of Project Surprise Me—from unexpected gifts to restaurant dates to sexy photo shoots—mishaps arise, with disastrous and comical results. Gradually, surprises turn to shocking truths. And when a scandal from the past is uncovered, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other at all.
With a colorful cast of eccentric characters, razor-sharp observations, and her signature wit and charm, Sophie Kinsella presents a humorous yet moving portrait of a marriage—its intricacies, comforts, and complications. Surprise Me reveals that hidden layers in a close relationship are often yet to be discovered.
The problem with calling your book “Surprise Me” is that if things aren’t going well, the reader might just keep yelling “Surprise me, dang it, surprise me!” at the words on the page. Well, my yelled demands succeeded and Sophie Kinsella did surprise me.
Surprise Me opens with Dan and Sylvie at the doctor’s who tells them that they will live another 68 years. They find the number mind-boggling. Together with the same person for 68 more years? Only having sex with that person for 68 more years? It throws a wrench between them. They decide that perhaps a way to keep the thrill is to bring surprise into their relationship. It turns out to be a bad idea. As they try to surprise each other, there are bigger surprises awaiting them that will change who they are and their relationship.
Coming in at over 400 pages, Surprise Me takes a long, long time to get anywhere near to surprising the reader. Unfortunately, the “surprises” that are supposed to be funny miss the mark (at least for me), either because it’s been done before elsewhere or the outcome’s unsurprising.
The novel is told through first person narrator Sylvie, who sometimes comes across as whiny, stupid, and completely self-absorbed. That does change, thankfully. But for a good portion of the beginning, the reader is left with a meandering narration that is not entertaining. The only reason why I carried on was because I saw some reviews that said the ending was worth it.
It’s not until the last third of the novel that I felt truly committed and interested. That is unfortunate because that last third is worth the novel, which makes me believe that a really good edit would have fixed this book. Considering that the arranged “surprises” felt incidental and not intrinsic tells me a good deal about what the book is really about.
Ultimately Surprise Me is the age-old story of not really knowing who your partner is, and discovering who they are is the real surprise.
Trimming 100 pages probably would have made this a fantastic novel because that last third really was worth sticking with the book.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.