Jenny Colgan has carved out some highly individual territory as a writer of great warmth and humour; she is a clear-eyed observer of human nature, as ready to extend sympathy to her characters as she is to be sardonic about their foibles. With Working Wonders, this brand of humorous writing is satisfyingly in evidence once more, wedded this time to a complex and intriguing plot.
Arthur Pendleton has led an unexciting life, working as a town planner and slowly realising that his life holds few surprises. Then he encounters the head of a team of management consultants, the beguiling and beautiful Gwyneth Morgan, a woman Arthur finds himself intimidated by. Her job is to inspire Arthur and his ill-assorted team of planners to take on a daunting task--ensure that Coventry becomes the new European city of culture. Looking around at such colleagues as nerdish computer expert Sven and the unhappy (and long-suffering) Cathy, Arthur becomes increasingly dispirited. And then, astonishingly, Gwyneth shows signs of being attracted to him, and (even more surprisingly) his team begins to fire on all cylinders with ideas. But which is more achievable: beginning a relationship with the intriguing Gwyneth, or making Coventry appear interesting? The elements that made Jenny Colgan's earlier books bestsellers are firmly in place here: quirkily observed characters, capricious plotting and a truly involving sense of the way in which most of us live our lives. Both Arthur and Gwyneth are beautifully drawn, and even if the basic theme (dull hero and brighter heroine in a non-metropolitan culture clash) may owe something to David Lodge's Changing Places, it's none the worse for that; this is an enchanting read. --Barry Forshaw
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