Awkward and predictable humour

‘The Debt and the Doormat’ – Laura Barnard

1-star-rating (1)

Image courtesy of

The Debt and the Doormat – Laura Barnard

Poppy and Jazz have been best friends from the first week of uni. Whenever these two get together trouble isn’t far away and things haven’t changed much. When Jazz gets herself into financial trouble Poppy, being a good friend, offers to help. She instead ends up being talked into swapping lives, with Jazz insisting it will be good and help her get over her broken heart. 

Poppy is thrown into a new life, full of crazy house mates; there’s fitness freak Izzy, horrendously beautiful bitch Grace and the slightly gorgeous, if not incredibly grumpy Ryan. Quickly, with the help of Jazz, her life is thrown upside down. Madness ensues and her need to please everyone gets her in more trouble than she could ever imagine. 

Before she knows it she’s got a fake boyfriend and is hiding so many secrets she’s scared they’ll spill out any minute. With a bullying boss, a sex crazed colleague, a mental mother and three brothers each with their own dramas, life has gotten pretty difficult for Poppy. And all of this would be much easier, if she could just stop falling over. 

Will she get her life back to normal before her brother’s upcoming wedding? And will she want to?

The blurb gives so much promise and follows the “rules” of a typical chick flick novel. But instead, you are presented with a predictable storyline and humour that just makes you cringe and feel quite awkward. It felt like I was watching a comedy film – you can see where and when the punch line is coming and when it does, you end up feeling sorry for the characters involved, rather than laughing at the predicament.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s an easy read to get in to and you want Poppy to finally sort herself out by the end of the novel (if nothing else, just to relieve that never-ending awkwardness that is prevalent throughout the story). The predicaments she finds herself in are quite lame and unbelievable; it made me question how Barnard was inspired to write this because it becomes quite far-fetched. For example, Poppy tells her mother that she is pregnant in order to escape meeting a pretend boyfriend in the city (they actually end up visiting this poor random bloke’s office and the situation is quite cringe-making), and this is still circling the gossip mill at the end of the story. Each time I wanted Poppy to have the balls to stand up to her unbearably controlling mother and just get on with life. Seriously, how could anyone manage to get themselves in the situations she finds herself in?

Another irritation for this story is that whilst it starts out with Poppy and her best friend, Jazz, swapping lives (clothes, way of living and where they live), this just seems to continue in the story, even though it is evident that this life swap has clearly got out of control. Fuelled, it seems, by going out every night to get drunk, I wonder just how far Barnard’s readers can relate to this. Again, surely common sense and self-belief would prevent anyone from acting in the way that Poppy does?

Perhaps I have missed the point of this novel and taken it far too seriously. Trust me, I could definitely see where Barnard was trying to go with this story but it really didn’t pull me in. The attempts at humour seem reminiscent of Sophie Kinsella and it is this that brought me to the conclusion that either the writer is trying too hard to create a chick flick novel, or has taken elements from different chick flick novels to combine it into her own… just not very successfully.