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L.A. turns out to be a little less "angelic" than the down-to-earth English girl anticipated. For one, there's the new nine-to-five: the unbelievably glamorous, frenzied chore of coddling (doing PR...
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L.A. turns out to be a little less "angelic" than the down-to-earth English girl anticipated. For one, there's the new nine-to-five: the unbelievably glamorous, frenzied chore of coddling (doing PR for) the stars--not to mention the bevy of gorgeous, stick-thin models who suddenly appear in Alice's orbit and the suntan/convertible lifestyle that taunts her pasty-white self (starting with her thighs). And just when she thinks her new life couldn't get any more surreal, Alice acquires that most American of accessories: her very own stalker.
While the B-list actresses grumble how unfair it is that Alice gets a stalker and they don't, Alice tries to figure out who the mystery man leaving her poems and flowers could be. Is it Charlie, the slick but twisted talent agent? Or Paddy, the hot Irish director who has eyes for any breathing woman? Or maybe it's Tommy, the unbelievably beautiful and totally wasted movie star? Because if truth be told, Alice doesn't think it's all that strange, this stalker business. In fact, she's pretty sure it's downright romantic . . .
She opened the fridge. Not a thing. And certainly not a host of sun-dried tomatoes or a bar of rich Belgian chocolate.
She wanted something that would make up for all that she was lacking in her miserable life. She wanted something to make her forget the bitter aftertaste of her tyrannical, unfaithful ex-boyfriend, Jamie. She wanted something so sweet that her teeth would rot just thinking about it. A sponge. A light sponge smeared with seedy raspberry jam and double cream. She pulled the round cake tin from the drawer beneath the oven and set about weighing out her flour. But as she reached for the self-rising flour, her arm wobbled dangerously. She really should go on a diet.
She opted for a carrot cake. Fewer calories, she reasoned.
Except the fridge revealed only half a moldy carrot. Alice wiped a floury hand through her hair and set off for Chelsea
The houses on her street were the color of sugared almonds and were dappled with sunlight this Monday morning.
Bywater Street was the gypsy caravan of Chelsea.
Myriad baskets of flowers and rare lilies adorned the doorways.
Her neighbors were, as far as she could make out,
Woodstock refugees and grandes dames, opera singers and retired colonels, practicing their scales, getting to grips with elementary taxidermy and feeding lobster thermidor to the roses in this first flush of May. Spring was here, and if she concentrated, Alice was sure she could hear birds above the traffic noises on the King's Road.
Wearing her holey leggings and a dyed-in-the-wash T-shirt,
hoping that her cousin Simon's Turnbull & Asser size-eleven slippers could pass for the latest in Gucci footwear,
Alice attempted to mingle with the tawny-skinned women and heroin-chic men hanging around outside cafés and chewing the fat over their modeling portfolios. But catching sight of herself in the window of an exclusive lingerie boutique, she realized that there wasn't a cat in hell's chance of her flour streaks being mistaken for the labor of love of a top Toni and Guy stylist. She ruffled her rebellious chestnut curls in a bid to liberate some of the baking ingredients and dashed around the corner to take a shortcut away from the withering glares of the beau monde.
Alice rounded the corner to Chelsea Green, a curious place. Those who had never been to the city would recognize it instantly as London and break into a rendition of
"I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts" in a Dick Van Dyke cor-blimey-me-old-treacle sort of way. Surrounding an elegant patch of manicured grass, it boasts shopfronts from a film set: a fishmonger's whose rainbow trout leaped from stream to weighing scales with a casual flip of the fins, a greengrocer's whose pears and potatoes nestled in a blissful time warp on a bed of AstroTurf and a newsagent who sold penny chews and sherbet fountains. Those who knew better regarded it suspiciously as London's answer to the Stepford Wives, lots of impossibly perfect women whose racehorse legs deemed it impossible for them to have given birth to a soufflé, let alone the pristine toddlers huddled in the back of the Mercedes. Alice, realizing that the only part of her anatomy that could be mistaken for that of a racehorse was her rump, stood behind one of these beings in the greengrocer's and tried to pull her T-shirt down to her knees. The woman was squeezing a peach so perfectly blushing it should have been made of marzipan.
Alice helped herself to a more humble carrot, trying to imagine a life where the only grocery shopping you had to do was to buy soft fruits, where you kept your Egyptian bed linen in a trunk scented with patchouli and fretted only over the consistency of your polenta.
Alice wasn't cut out for a life of jobs and bill paying. She wanted to live in an Aga saga. She longed for a rectory with a crumbling wall and dogs. She couldn't quite picture the children just yet, but she thought she could manage responsibility of a dog kind. She accepted that she'd probably have to marry a vicar, though she wasn't quite sure where you found young vicars. They all seemed fifty if they were a day. Perhaps there was a seminary nearby.
The Jane Asher tea shop next door seemed as likely a place as any to find a member of the clergy, so Alice talked herself into a spot of tea and a cream cake. She sat alone,
her spoon stirring up a diminutive whirlpool of Earl Grey in her cup, as she carefully surveyed the street outside for cassocks.
Was that what they were called or was that something
Russian? God, she couldn't really pull it off at the rectory garden party if she couldn't get a grip on her husband's clothing preferences.
"Absolutely, Lady B. I find that Ariel automatic does wonders for the marks on the reverend's dresses."
In the ideal vicarage life she wouldn't have to worry about washing, of course; in those Aga sagas there always seemed to be heaps of vicar groupies around to do all the unsavory jobs--arranging the flowers, pouring tea, wiping choirboys' noses. Yes, they'd have to be very choosy about which parish they plumped for, Alice and her vicar. The only other problem she could envision would be her looks--they weren't terribly chaste-vicar's-wife looks, they were the messy kind. Her hips were far from virginal--she'd look atrocious in a pleated skirt--her lips were plump enough to put the congregation off holy communion, and her curls would never in a month of Sunday sermons agree to anything as organized as a bun or a French pleat. Maybe it was a lost cause. Except, of course, that she'd make a fabulous
Mary Magdalene in the Easter pageant.
As her carrots had sat in their brown paper bag on the table in the tea shop, they must have been mysteriously imbued with the spirit of Jane Asher, because Alice's cake rose magnificently and was much improved by the maverick touch of adding a few poppyseeds. "Inspired," declared
Alice as she licked the mixture off the whisk and contemplated a future of cake baking for special occasions instead of typing. But right now she couldn't even afford a dozen eggs, so that put paid to that.
If you thought that Alice had come into this seemingly charmed life as some genetic freak with a trust fund and ever-so-bijou flat in a fashionable part of London, you'd be wrong. Alice is a girl like any other. Less fortunate than most, really, if you consider losing your job, flat, and boyfriend in the same fortnight a misfortune. One minute she had a somewhere career in PR, the next the company was merging with a corporate giant and Alice was surplus to requirements and thrust headlong into a life of daytime television. The adage, kick a dog when it's down, became grim reality when dastardly Jamie decided to dump her and move his new girlfriend into the conjugal bed of their shared flat just days later, leaving Alice nursing her pillow and her paltry redundancy check on the assorted sofabeds of various friends.
Thankfully for Alice, and for the friends whose Kleenex supplies were proving woefully inadequate for their guest's needs, she just happened to have a dashing cousin called
Simon Benedictus. Simon had left London six months earlier for a stint in Brazil as a wildlife photographer. As far as Alice could make out, the only wildlife he'd encountered,
or certainly photographed, was female and delectable, but who was she to judge? He'd generously loaned the desolate and destitute cousin from Clapham his house for a while. As well as leaving his house keys, he'd also left a legacy of heartbroken females who phoned day and night and occasionally called around in all their finery, leaving the engines of their convertibles purring in the street outside.
At first Alice had dealt badly with the Legacy. Wouldn't you? If a constant shimmy of satin dresses and honeyed flesh made its way to your door, leaving you to answer in fraying leggings circa 1987 crowned with unwashed hair? I
thought so. And at first the Legacy was pretty peeved, too.
Who, they wanted to know, was this alarming creature answering the delectable Simon's door so proprietorially?
Had he secretly wed one morning after a particularly heavy night at the Ministry of Sound? Had the well-documented family history of insanity come back to haunt him?
So you can imagine how relieved they were when they found out a) that Alice was his cousin and consequently an unlikely choice of bride and b) that her limbs were far from honeyed. In fact, it was usually at this juncture that Alice stopped being a threat and became an ally. For who better than reliable cousin Alice to persuade Simon on his return of the wisdom of marrying Trinny/Sophie/
Tamsin/whoever. And Alice was only too happy to oblige as they'd each insisted that she join them for some night-club opening or select soirée.
"So, darling, what do you want a horrible job for?" asked
Trinny, one of the less alarming members of the Legacy, as she picked the seeds out of the cake and left the cake part in a heap on her plate. (Have you any idea how many calories per slice?) Alice had just plucked up the courage to tell
Trinny that she wouldn't be able to make it to her girls'
lunch party tomorrow because she planned to make herself available to the Office Trollope's temping agency. She'd been on their books for the last two weeks, but all they'd offered her was packing frozen yogurt into cartons and rearranging the Denby crockery in the Debenhams sale.
However, an increase on her overdraft was nigh if she didn't make some money soon.
"Bills, Trin: food, clothing."
Trinny looked uncomprehendingly at Alice. She had nothing to add to this list of mundanity.
"I'm seeing Simon next week." She smiled, the cat who'd got the cream.
"Cousin Simon?" Alice swirled her finger around in the orange icing on her plate.
"Yes, Simon B." With just the merest alteration to his name, Trinny managed to turn the cousin Simon with bat-wing ears who had once peed in her terrapin's tank at a family barbecue into the indispensable social gadfly who loved and left women in mud huts and avocado plantations the length of the libidinous world. "He's invited me over. Well, I called him at some hill station and said I was doing a competition in Venezuela and wasn't that near him. Anyway, he said I should pop in and see him. So I
Alice wasn't exactly au fait with the finer nuances of the map of South America but thought that Venezuela and
Brazil were probably more than a cab ride apart. But she stuck the icing in her mouth and kept quiet. Trinny's life consisted of ceroc dancing and kite flying. Her days were a whirl of apple-green and Schiaparelli-pink creations that she flew high in exotic skies. The airfares it took to get there resembled phone numbers. Alice didn't really understand why the breeze above Clapham Common wasn't good enough for a spot of kite flying, but for Trinny it was an art form.
"So when you get this horrible job we won't be able to have lunch ever again, will we?" Trinny said sulkily.
"Well, I suppose that even people with jobs eat at some point, Trin."
"Don't you believe it. And your bottom will spread as well, you know." Trinny swept back a curtain of blond hair and shuddered at the thought. "Have you heard from Simon lately?"
Alice thought it better not to mention the phone call last night when Simon, drunk on some local spirit made from the saliva of a hallucinogenic Amazonian tree frog, said he'd fallen in love with a pygmy. "Oh, you know Simon,"
she muttered in an opaque way, and polished off another piece of cake.
Posted August 7, 2007
This book is simply wonderful. I have been reading it over and over almost once a year for every summer because it is absolutely guaranteed to put me into a great mood. I always laugh out loud when I read it, even in public. Truly a gem!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 16, 2006
My husband purchased Dog Handling for me for a Christmas present and it took me a while to actually get to it. Once I actually read the book, I loved everything that Naylor wrote. I went and bought all of her books. Catching Alice was absolutely fabulous. I love the way Alice doesn't care what her American 'friends' say about her stalker, she thinks it great. It's so fun to see all the different views on a secret admirer.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 10, 2003
To be honest, the cover of this book initially caught my interest. I had never read one of Naylor's novels, but now I'm hooked. The approach she takes to a lot of the stuff that plagues women, especially younger ones, resonated with me. She is a great author who creates stories that are so much fun to read, I was willing to allocate more time than I had to read her books.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
<P>Alice Lewis is going through some bad times. The former English secretary lost her job due to a merger, is evicted from her apartment, and finally dumped by her boyfriend. Some of her friends have allowed Alice to sleep on their sofas. Her best friend Tash learns of Alice¿s predicament and insists her pal join her in Los Angeles where she will find her a job and become roommates. A depressed Alice meekly agrees, but from the time she deplanes at LAX, she feels like a visitor from another planet. <P>Tash obtains a high profile publicist job for Alice, who surprises herself by being quite good at it. Alice goes out on a date with a man into S&M, learns how to be a California Girl, and picks up a stalker. Patrick Wilde first saw Alice in England and was very attracted to her then and has followed her to the States. His behavior towards Alice leaves Patrick uncomfortable because he always gets the girl, but she proves elusive. They must clear up several misunderstandings if they are to have a warm relationship together. <P>Clare Naylor has a delightful sense of humor that she imbues in her characters, who land in situations that leave readers wondering whether to gasp or laugh. The entire cast is well drawn so that the audience understands each one of the key players. CATCHING ALICE includes high drama, low humor, and raunchy romance that will make Ms. Naylor a name in the States. <P>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 7, 2010
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Posted November 2, 2008
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