Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld - review by Jake Kerridge

Jake Kerridge

Saturday Night Love

Romantic Comedy

By

Doubleday 320pp £16.99
 

Curtis Sittenfeld is not one of those novelists who write the same book over and over again, but more often than not her protagonists fit a certain mould: they tend to be highly intelligent but socially awkward women, aware that they are only middlingly attractive or at least less conventionally pretty than many of their friends, and annoyed with themselves for not being totally immune to the charms of men.

Since her first two novels, Prep (2005) and The Man of My Dreams (2006), established the Sittenfeld heroine template, her characters have sometimes seemed to conform to it without the author quite intending them to. This happened with her version of Elizabeth Bennet – fashion journalist Liz Bennet – in Eligible (2016), her contemporary reworking of Pride and Prejudice, and even to some extent with her Hillary Clinton in Rodham (2020), an imagining of what might have happened if Hillary had dumped Bill before they got married.

The title of Sittenfeld’s seventh novel suggests that we ought to take any generic conformity as very much intended. At a time when the writers of chick lit are noisily campaigning to be taken more seriously, this book feels like a demonstration of solidarity by a writer who has always had a foot in the genre, even though the quality of her writing has elevated her out of the ghetto in the eyes of critics.

The narrator of Romantic Comedy is 36-year-old Sally Milz, an Emmy-winning writer of sketches for comedy show The Night Owls (Saturday Night Live by another name). She is anxious, average-looking and long-divorced, and her love life consists solely of unsatisfactory hook-ups with a man called Gene, whose only virtue is

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RLF - March