Wednesday, December 01, 2004

THEODORA'S DIARY by Penny Culliford

"Theodora's Diary" by Penny Culliford

From the back cover:

Saturday 8th May. Emergency!

It is 11:30 p.m. and I am suffering from an incredibly intense chocolate craving that will not leave me in spite of prayer, distraction activities and half a loaf of bread and butter. Got out of bed and searched the flat. No luck. Not even a bourbon biscuit. Not even a cream egg left from Easter. All the shops are closed so no nipping out to replenish supplies. Nothing else for it. I’m reduced to the chocoholic’s equivalent of meths—cooking chocolate.

It’s been one of those days for Theodora. Her mother has become the Greek equivalent of Delia Smith, her boyfriend would rather watch 22 men kick a ball around a field than go shopping with her, and chintzy Charity Hubble wants to pray for her. And of course, the crowning insult is her utter lack of chocolate. Join in her daily life with all of its challenges and joys, tears and laughter.

Camy here:

This is truly a five-star winner. Witty writing without being overly sarcastic, clever characterization that keeps each person rich and intriguing in the reader's mind.

Theodora is refreshingly realistic. She is not smart, beautiful or even particularly spiritual at the start of the book, but she is likable and her adventures are fun to follow. She is a colorful personality, and the people surrounding her are equally interesting--her Greek-obsessed mother, football-crazed plumber boyfriend, the Aussie Reverend "Digger" Graves, and maternal Pollyanna Mrs. Hubble. Each of them makes the plot vibrant and fast-paced. They are all consistent, and any emotional and spiritual changes are both believable and satisfying.

The faith element is handled with tongue-in-cheek, but also with a skilled painter's brush. The Christian stereotypes are all present, and somehow they are both endearing and laughable. This comical backdrop, however, only enhances the brilliance of characters like Miss Chamberlain, who radiate Christ.

The pun-ny writing is laugh-out-loud (or groan-out-loud) funny, reflecting dry British humor. I loved the way the prose rambled along, interspersed with moments of cheekiness that almost took me by surprise. I loved the lack of jaded sophistication, the absence of the kind of biting sarcasm that seems to always be putting someone down.

I can't recommend this book enough. I have to mention, however, that there are several references that are purely British in nature, and may not seem that funny to an American reader. My husband had no idea what a "bloke" was, while I found reference to a "Bible for Blokes" uproarious.

Fun reading. I can't help thinking that fans of Betty Neels would enjoy this book. I can't wait to read the sequel, "Theodora's Wedding."


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