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Review: Audio version of Madeleine Wickham's 'Sleeping Arrangements' hits, misses

Seven years after Sleeping Arrangements by British author Madeleine Wickham appeared on London bookstore shelves, it has reached a wider audience.

The reason: Wickham is also the creator of the financially challenged, bubbly Brit Becky Bloomwood, star of the Confessions of a Shopaholic series. Under her better-known pen name, Sophie Kinsella, Wickham has birthed one of the most beloved chick lit characters, and now new life has been given to some of her pre-Shopaholic books.

In Sleeping Arrangements, two drastically different families find themselves trapped in the same villa while on holiday in Spain. "Sharing" the villa are smug marrieds Hugh and Amanda and life partners Chloe and Philip (he's against marriage). Haughty Amanda views this invasion of privacy as a sign that they should have gone to Club Med. Chloe had hoped to use this holiday to bring Philip out of his perpetual funk since the bank he managed was absorbed in a corporate takeover. The villa's loan by a mutual friend is a setup to toy with the emotions of all parties, including Hugh and Chloe, who spent a passionate summer together in their 20s.

Fellow Brit Katherine Kellgren provides the voices for Wickham's characters in the audio version. She varies her tonal range, but misses with Amanda. Despite Amanda's stuffy, overbearing personality, the character's genuine love for her family gets lost (along with reader sympathy) in Kellgren's condescending Queen of England impression.

At times, Sleeping Arrangements has a been-there, read-this-before plot with cliffhangers that won't fool savvy readers. But Wickham makes up for these oversights with the sarcastic wit and brash behavior of Jenna, Amanda and Hugh's nanny. She breathes fresh air into the book and could be seen as a sketch for some of the zany, original characters Wickham has since created.

Jennifer DeCamp can be reached at (727) 893-8881 or jdecamp@sptimes.com

Sleeping Arrange-ments

By Madeleine Wickham; unabridged audiobook read by Katherine Kellgren

Macmillan, 8.5 hours, $29.95

Review: Audio version of Madeleine Wickham's 'Sleeping Arrangements' hits, misses 08/30/08 [Last modified: Saturday, August 30, 2008 4:30am]
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