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    LIFE SKILLS by Katie Fforde

    St. Martin's Paperbacks, June 2001 (Hardback 1999)

    Julie Fairfax has dumped her boring fiance and quit her job. Deciding to finish the job of completely changing her life, she rents out her house and gets a job for the summer as a cook on a narrow-boat one of a pair of long, thin hotel boats that ply English canals. During an adventure-filled summer, Julia learns a lot about herself and life in general, aided by Suzy, the young heiress with something to prove who's running the boats; her ex-fiance and his hyper-critical mother; and most especially, a childhood nemesis who now wants to be more than friends.

    The meandering plot anf fuzzy focus of this book give it an episodic feel. The first two-thirds of the book focus primarily on Julia and Suzy surviving the summer through every disaster imagineable, while the last third sees a complete change of venue and a very different focus. Non-the-less, Julis is so darn likable you just keep reading to find out how she'll get out of each new scrape. All of the characters, in fact, are well drawn and endearing (except for the odious Mrs. Anstruther, who is delightfully hateful) and the writing sparkles with wit and humor. The Britishisms are an extra treat for this American reader. This is not a book you stay up all night reading, but it's one you can enjoy in delightful snippets when you have a few minutes to indulge a guilty pleasure.

    Three Stars

    Purchase LIFE SKILLS from (hardback)

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