Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld – review

Published by Doubleday

Publication date – 6 April 2023

Source – own copy

Life is (not)* a Romantic Comedy…

With a series of heartbreaks under her belt, Sally Milz – successful script writer for a legendary late-night TV comedy show – has long abandoned the search for love.

But when her friend and fellow writer begins to date a glamorous actress, he joins the growing club of interesting but average-looking men who get romantically involved with accomplished, beautiful women. Sally channels her annoyance into a sketch, poking fun at this ‘social rule’. The reverse never happens for a woman.

Then Sally meets Noah, a pop idol with a reputation for dating models. But this isn’t a romantic comedy – it’s real life. Would someone like him ever date someone like her?

Sally is becoming weary with the trope of the beautiful, famous women, falling for plainer men. It hits home even more when her colleague becomes engaged to a famous actress. So she uses that and inverts it, creating a sketch for the comedy show she works for where a famous, attractive man, gets arrested for falling for a “plainer” woman. It doesn’t help though that the star of the sketch will be Noah, a pop star who tends to date younger models. There’s a spark but Noah would never fall for someone like her. Would he?

Sometimes you know from early on in a book that you will love it. You’ll look at the pages to come and be worried, not that it seems overly long and will take an age to read, but that it won’t last long enough and that last page will soon be turned. Romantic Comedy is such a book.

The book is divided into three parts or huge chapters; when Sally and Noah first meet at the TNO studios, an epistolary second chapter where the two email during the pandemic and a third part when the two meet in LA. Each part flows naturally to the next and there’s joy to be found in each. From jokes and sketches being written for the show (my favourite being the sketch regarding what dogs Google) to the email exchanges.

I loved this book so much I was already planning a re-read as I was reading it for the first time. There is something, a hard to describe essence, that makes it appealing, that envelopes the reader and draws them into Sally and Noah’s world.  This is a counterbalance to the world of celebrity and uncertainty and  obsession with being famous and beautiful. Sally has to learn that she is worthy of being loved by Noah, that his fame is just one side of him, that her talent is just as worthy as his. Noah has his own issues to deal with, revealing that the compulsion to conform to society’s expectations of celebrity beauty are just as much of a focus for men as they are women.

Another thing I struck me about the book is that this is a love story with central characters who are “older”, both being in their late thirties,  without overt romantic scenes. There’s no pressure for the happy ever after and their relationship development is the whole crux of the novel, not the destination. Yes, it’s a sort of fairy tale, with the handsome celebrity falling for the “unknown” but it is also a story about two people overcoming their own issues and falling in love, dealing with complications as they arise. It is a commentary on how society views celebrity and how it views appearance over substance. There are questions over how one person could be attracted to another because of their looks, a superficial stance that doesn’t look at why someone may be attracted to another person for more than how they appear.

Sally has her hang ups and prejudices about celebrity relationships. She focusses a sketch on the idea that “normal” women could never be in a relationship with a famous man who was, by society’s standards, more attractive than her. Whilst it was the idea for a sketch it is that faint belief that almost ruins Sally’s relationship with Noah before it starts. She is strong and independent yet also worries that she is not good enough for him or he isn’t attracted to her because she’s not a 22 year old model. As she falls for Noah she also begins to love herself in a way she didn’t realise she needed to.

Noah is the opposite of what would be expected from a famous singer. He is down to earth, self-deprecating and aware of his immense privilege. He is far from certain on the romantic front, is unsure in his appearance and bewildered that Sally can’t see her full truth worth.

The book is filled with wonderful characters from Viv, Henrietta and Danny, Sally’s co-workers, to Jerry, her step-father and each one adds something to the story, from Danny inspiring the sketch to Sally being able to help Viv with her own relationship without seeing how the same advice could benefit herself.

I loved every page of this book. A story about falling in love with someone, falling in love with yourself and falling in love with being loved.

Highly recommended.

You can buy a copy here.

(This is an affiliate link so I may make a small amount should you purchase through it. You can also buy Romantic Comedy from your local independent bookshop.)

2 Comments Add yours

  1. I read American Wife last year and loved it. This sounds like a fab read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      The only other one of her books I’ve read is Eligible, a modern day remake of Pride and Prejudice, which I loved.

      Liked by 1 person

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