Singleholic promises to be the read of the summer when it comes to chick-lit, billed as the “black Bridget Jones” and compared to Sex and the City.
In this debut book from Katherine Bing, we follow Sarah, a 30 year old History teacher living alone in a flat, as she obsesses over finding a man. She wonders if she should go for suave and cool banker Chibu, sexy but childish rich boy Sam, or perhaps Arthur, the charming barrister.
The book’s vibrant setting Brixton is brought to life in striking detail, from the old lady sitting outside Iceland selling her artwork framed in foil, to the painting of an orgy which hangs in pride of place in the atmospheric SW9 Bar.
There are some hilarious incidents, from a disastrous blind date involving the discovery that the fit internet hottie is actually nearly twice Sarah’s age, to a conversation which exposes Sarah as never going to the gym, to one possible suitor who, as it happens, belongs to the same gym as her.
Neurotic control freak Sarah is likeable and funny, with thoughts that many women will relate to. She is of mixed heritage, and race is something that is discussed openly in the book.
Bing is no doubt trying to expose stereotypes in her writing, but some may argue that in doing so, these very stereotypes are being reinforced.
Whatever your view, there is no doubt that Singleholic is an increasingly rare example of chick-lit that is a real page turner; genuinely touching and well written.
Rating out of 5: 5
Katherine Bing Interview (Aristo Magazine) (2009)
Anna Nathanson meets new author Katherine Bing to talk about her debut novel Singleholic, dubbed ‘the black Bridget Jones’…
Exploring questions such as ‘which race is better to marry?’ and ‘who’s better in bed?’ new book Singleholic is a “multi-cultural dating spree across London”, chronicling the life of mixed raced Sarah as she searches for a husband. Unlike other chick-lit novels that don’t really represent the variety and diverse nature of the communities in London, Singleholic promises to. “It plays with race in a way that hasn’t been done before in a chick-lit novel”, Katherine tells me. “But it’s also a woman’s journey of discovery through life that everyone can identify with”.
Recognising a gap in the market for this kind of book, Katherine simply sat down and started writing, using her own “crazy dating experiences” as inspiration. “My characters are all combinations of people I have known. Sarah is a combination of different people and from the responses I’ve had from women, I think there is a bit of Sarah in us all”.
So far the book has been getting extremely positive feedback. “I get emails all the time from women I don’t know telling me they loved it and couldn’t put it down”, Bing says. “I think minorities in particular like the idea of another woman representing them, whether they’re black, Polish or Italian. The multi-cultural London dating scene isn’t really represented and it ought to be because that’s the reality. Most people know someone who’s dated outside their own race. There are so many different nationalities living in London”.
As well as being a talented writer, Katherine is also a French teacher by day. “Writing the book wasn’t an issue because it was done over a long period of time and I did it in my spare time, and in the holidays” she says of juggling her two jobs. Was she worried about how her students would react to the somewhat risqué subject matter of the novel? “It was funny because yes, I was terrified about them finding out and when they did, they didn’t think it was a big deal at all! They just thought ‘brilliant, Miss has published a book’ and they were quite proud. In terms of the content of it, it was nothing in comparison to the things they come across all the time, so here I was thinking it was sexy and scandalous, and they just thought it was normal!”
As for budding authors out there, Katherine’s advice would be to just start writing. “The hardest bit is pitching it to agents and finding a publisher; that took years. You have to just keep going. To start with you send off the first three or four chapters as well as a synopsis, so you have to have something to show before approaching agents. The agent then goes and finds you a publisher. So I’d say just start writing and have faith in your idea”.
Singleholic is available now through Hansib Publishing
By Anna Nathanson