What Goes Around, by Alexandra Carew

Story of Cat Wellesby (sp?) who leaves her job as a high-powered media exec in a Hong Kong TV company to return to England, where she eventually manages to land another media job. Throughout the book, she's constructing fantasies about having relationships with various blokes she meets, but things always seem to go sour when the fantasies become reality. I think this would be classified as "chick-lit".

I don't think the structure of the book had the effect that was intended: its first section was set in London in "the present", where Cat is between relationships and jobs after returning from Hong Kong, and spends a while there before flashing back to cover the three years she spent in the East, finally returning to "the present". The section in Hong Kong is so long that by the time we returned to London I'd forgotten exactly what had happened in the first bit (which had made opaque references to things that went on in HK).

Tt was a bit of a strange book in that I'm not really sure what it was about. Neither of the two major relationships Cat has is successful, and she doesn't behave particularly well in either case, but the book doesn't seem to condemn this, and at the end of it she appears to be embarking on another relationship with no evident guilt or self-knowledge (despite a section towards the end where she thinks she's realised what life's really all about). I don't know if this was intentional (and I sort of suspect not), but there's nothing at all to explain what she sees in the men she goes for, other than their appearance. Cat very much wants to be in a relationship, but it's unclear what it is about the men which makes her like them (or what it is about her that makes them like her). The whole thing felt very shallow.

Cat's job is described in a way that makes it sound impressive, and towards the end she negotiates a salary package which is twice that of the person she's replacing, but considering the amount of time spent talking about her work, there is barely anything describing how this world works. It's hard to believe the author did any research on what goes on in a TV company. Similarly, while I could believe Carew has perhaps been to Hong Kong, I could equally well believe that she just read a load of travel brochures.

I think that the title of the book may refer to Cat's beliefs in kooky stuff like reincarnation, and her predilection for resorting to tarot cards and horoscopes when deciding what course of action to take. But again, this wasn't dealt with in a very informative way: there was nothing here to suggest that the author has any more knowledge of this type of thing than I do.

Despite all this, it was an easy enough read, and I was interested to find out what would happen (if only because I couldn't believe there wouldn't be some kind of conclusion that would explain the whole thing). I think the strength of the book might have been that it accurately reflected what life is like for many people (apart from the fact that they've not got glamorous careers): lots of time is spent daydreaming about what might be nice, but the truth often turns out not so good.

Completed : 25-Feb-2007 (audiobook)

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