The List

the listPublished: 2014
Author: Joanna Bolouri

A fun concept but hideous, unlikeable characters make this a disappointment


When I was at secondary school there was a specific kind of girl in every class. She was blonde (normally not naturally), loud, a bit thick and absolutely obsessed with sex. She, of course, claimed to be having lots of it with the kind of good looking guy who didn’t attend our school and wasn’t really to be found anywhere in Glasgow in the early 90s. Anyone who wasn’t boasting about sex was boring or stupid or a freak but god help the girl who got pregnant at 14 – she was all sorts of unmentionable words. I hated those girls with a burning passion and haven’t really thought about any of them in two and a half decades. Until reading The List by Joanna Bolouri – then all of my hatred came rushing back.

Glaswegian single girl Phoebe Henderson has had a tough time – her boyfriend has cheated on her and left for another woman and she has spent months moping over him. To mark the New Year Phoebe decides that the coming 12 months will be different – she will no longer put up with deadbeat boyfriends and a disappointing sex life, she will take complete control of her relationships and creates a list of sexual experiences to be tried in the coming year including bondage, a threesome and sex with a younger man. With encouragement from her friends and errrr… input from her best friend Oliver, Phoebe sets about achieving her aims with some gusto.

I wanted to like this book, set in my home city, but I just couldn’t. I loved the concept and looked forward to  a raunchy comedy where a woman took complete control of her life and had lots of fun but this was fairly tedious. Phoebe was a particularly detestable character, happy to sleep with men in relationships and use men for sex regardless of their feelings. Yes, men have behaved like that in fiction for years but that doesn’t make it right or something for female characters to mimic. She and her vacuous friends shriek their way through boozy nights where the only topic of conversation is sex. I would run from one end of Sauchiehall Street to the other to avoid these hideous harpies.

There are some good points – there are some very funny lines and one or two of the sex scenes will appeal to the raunch seekers among you. Overall though it was hugely disappointing. The sex wasn’t sexy (or funny) enough, the characters were unsympathetic and I knew almost exactly how the story would end from about page 7. I was also hideously distracted by inconsistencies with the Glasgow setting – I knew the book had lost me early on when I paid more attention to how many days holiday Phoebe had over New Year rather than her narrative.

I’m sure The List will find its own audience. Reviews and marketing I’ve seen so far seem to be selling it as a mixture of Bridget Jones and Sex and the City. Given I hate Bridget Jones with a burning passion and would rather gnaw off my own arm than watch the second Sex and the City film then it’s probably fair to say that I’m not part of that audience. Plenty of people will find this an enjoyable holiday romp, not me – it just reminds me too much of the vapid alpha girls who always made school so uncomfortable.

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