Sophie Kinsella’s newest book Surprise Me did just that. It surprised me. (Sorry, for the bad play on words, but I had to.) Whenever I thought I knew what direction the book would take next, it went somewhere else. And I loved it.
Surprise Me is about Dan and Sylvie, a married couple with five-year old twin girls. At the beginning of the book, they celebrate ten years of being in a relationship, seven of which they have been married. During a doctor’s appointment they get the news that they are very healthy and are likely to live for another 68 years. After hearing that they will be married for that long, they panic.
In an attempt to make things more interesting, they decide that they would start surprising each other. That’s when things start to go wrong as surprises are never what you think they are. The first few surprises go awry. Yet, Sylvie is determined to keep on going. It is only when she notices Dan keeping more and more to himself, that she actually starts to worry about their marriage.
The story is told in the first person narrative by Sylvie, so of course, at first you get the impression of Dan and Sylvie being the perfect couple. The finish each other’s sentences and all. No one is perfect, though, and soon you can see some imperfections in their marriage. Sylvie comes from a relatively rich family and it seems that Dan has a problem with that. Another sore topic is Sylvie’s late father. Sylvie is still grieving and Dan reacts weird every time Sylvie’s dad is mentioned.
There are a couple of things that I’d like to talk about, that might spoil reading the book for you, so consider this your Spoiler-Warning.
Further problems in their marriage are when Dan remembers one of his ex-girlfriends, Mary, and gets in touch with her. That and him getting more secretive by the day, make Sylvie believe that Dan is cheating. After the prologue that’s what I was thinking as well. I really like that Kinsella does not go there as it would have been too much of a cliche. Turns out Dan was hiding a secret about Sylvie’s dad from her. He wanted to protect her from it, that is why he never said a word about it.
Sylvie’s dad allegedly had an affair with a sixteen-year old girl when Sylvie was a small child. That woman, Joss, wrote a book about the affair and Dan tried to get her to not publish it. She ended up not writing about it in her first book but wants to include the affair in her second book. Sylvie finds all of this out and realises that her beloved father might not have been the person she though he was. She also realised that her father was horrible to Dan, who only tried to help him.
Given that we live in the #MeToo-era, I was very interested in how the whole alleged affair played out. I really like that Sylvie took time to read what Joss wrote and analysed it rationally. As rationally as one can, anyway. At the end, she comes to the conclusion that Joss is telling the truth as she can find characteristics of her father’s in Joss’ writing, that she could have only known about by knowing Sylvie’s father very well.
Another reason to believe Joss in all this is, that Sylvie used to know her under the name Lynn. After the alleged affair, her parents told her that Lynn only existed in her imagination and make Sylvie feel bad for her “imaginary friend”. For me, this Lynn-is-Joss-reveal was probably the most surprising while reading the book. I had a feeling that Sylvie’s dad wasn’t who she though he was given Dan’s reaction and the fact that their wedding video was all about Sylvie’s dad and not Dan and Sylvie.
All in all, Surprise Me has been a wonderful book to read. Sophie Kinsella can always make me laugh, then cry and then laugh again within a couple of pages. I can only recommend the book to everyone. So, what do you think? Was Surprise Me a surprise for you? (That was my last bad wordplay, I promise.) I would really love to hear your opinion and maybe a few wordplays.