Friday, 13 May 2011

International Chick Lit Month: Is Chick Lit Simply the Romance Novel?

Shade Lapite is a writer who runs Just Before Bed which is a fantastic book blog so I was delighted when she offered to write a guest post for me. The post is a light hearted look at the comparisons between Chick Lit and romance novels.

It’s not hard to spot the Chick Lit section in a bookshop. The pastel-coloured, cartoon-illustrated cover has become as ubiquitous as the perma-tan hero - big hands, big pecs, big…everything was once reserved for romances. The story lines are becoming pretty standard too. Housewives being abandoned by their husbands and falling for handsome farmers, (The Sweetest Thing by Cathy Woodman) career women being passed over for promotion then falling for the snobs who stole their coveted job (Unlike a Virgin by Lucy Anne Holmes) and organised girl Fridays forced to babysit out of control rock-star comedians then falling for their charges (Lizzy Harrison Loses Control by Pippa Wright). There’s an awful lot of falling in fact they sound curiously like the romance novel circa 1970 with a sense of humour. While the 21st century Chick Lit novel showers us with unfulfilled women toiling in underpaid job (nannies, secretaries, assistants) leaning on family and friends until a man provides that happy ending, the romance genre has done some serious growing up. The scowling, cynical hero is still wealthy and strong jawed but tends to refrain from taking his woman against her will. The women are still achingly beautiful and innocent but they’re not sitting around waiting for an invite to the nearest aisle. Instead they're strong-willed careerists, occasionally even contemptuous of the whole love thing.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this; when a pudgy, beer-swilling, nicotine-addicted Bridget Jones stumbled on to the literary scene she was supposed to usher in a richer more varied representation of womanhood. And for a while she did; from Melissa Bank’s, Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, to the feisty heroines of Candace Bushell’s Sex and the City. Along with the ditsy Bridgets, Chick Lit encompassed capable women at the top of their game, navigating life and love, friendship and family. You see, there was variety. Now the parameters of the genre seem to be narrowing. Yes the books are still well written, hilarious, moving but the underlying message is consistently - singledom sucks and life’s pointless without a steady man. We already have the romance, and it’s doing pretty well. so it would be a shame if we landed ourselves with an imitation genre. So let’s stop treating singledom like a disease, occasionally ditch the pastel-coloured cover and get back to embracing the full potential of women.

You can read Shade's blog here and you can follow her on Twitter.

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