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3.6 out of 5 stars58
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 19 October 2006
This is great fun to read especially if you know anybody with loads of money who is self-obsessed, spends their life shopping and keeping up with other similar over wealthy types. Also the sheer pretentiousness that is life in Notting Hill is brilliantly lampooned.

Johnson is clearly sending herself up as well as her nearby neighbours who must have a sense of humour since no one appears to have taken her to court yet.

It might not be worthy, serious literature but it had me laughing out loud, sometimes in horrified recognition and it's definitely a massive cut above much of the tedious chick lit out there.
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on 13 April 2016
Fortunately, I only paid one penny for this tripe as a 'light read'. I'm all for light fiction that is well-written and deftly crafted. This 'novel' is neither. The characters are either one-dimensional or so unappealing one doesn't care what happens to them. Full marks, too, for the casual racism in this insular novel: immigrant domestic help is featured only as a vehicle for making fun of their accents (including 'Antipodeans' for whom the author has a totally tin ear). Uber rich Americans are envied and pilloried in equal measure while one character, a Frenchwoman, seems to be inserted so that the author can write italicised pretend English spoken by a French person ('eez zat yur 'at? type of 'frogbashing'). In between the insularity in that most insular of neighbourhoods, there is no room for the poor, the disabled, the mentally ill or, even, people who are good at conversation or simply pleasant. To make up for the lack of dimension is a litany of name-dropping, branded appliances and clothing and the London obsession with real estate. The author, a columnist of Sunday supplement ephemera married to an old Etonian, features the character, Mimi, a columnist of Sunday supplement ephemera married to an old Etonian. Mimi is smug, unlikeable, self-pitying and avaricious. Clare, a dull garden designer who appears never to do more than a spot of gardening when she feels like it, is simply dull, gossipy and whiney. I read on, hoping for something redemptive or screamingly funny. Not a sausage. Fictional and semi-fictional private worlds can be intriguing, funny, interesting or entertaining. The world of Notting Hell is none of these, simply insular and dull. Nul points.
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VINE VOICEon 16 September 2015
I enjoyed this once it got going; I wasn't too sure at first because the tone of the author seemed rather uncertain. Then she got into her stride about chapter 5 and from there on I was hooked.

It's a lovely soapy wash of a book set in those hallowed money-washed precincts where all the mummies (escept Mimi) are yummy and a delicious expensive snack is only a short walk away. I loved the detail, though some of the early clothes references got a bit tedious - we know Clare is rich, we get it, we don't need every designer's name.

It is quite a smile-a-thon as you recognise the types of people and their traits. In some ways it could have been set in any middle-England village. Mimi probably has the most interesting journey as she gets sexually infatuated with her billionaire. Her little escape from the regularity of her life makes it seem all the more precious as she discovers the age-old male proclivity of moving onto the next one.

Rachel Johnson keeps Clare's journey a little more under wraps, so you are not quite sure by what method she eventually achieves her goal. I loved the set pieces like the garden committee meeting and bonfire night.

Glass of Pinot Grigio, sofa, warm fire and this book - you're well away!
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on 6 July 2015
I enjoyed this book, but it is a switch-off beach read, the novel equivalent of hello magazine. It's fairly predictable, characters are one-dimensional and at times loathsome, nothing much happens and it's all a bit of a cliche. But it is easy to read and fun, plus I like the structure of alternating chapters from the 2 main characters' perspectives. Wouldn't recommend it, but did like it as I read it on holiday.
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on 20 February 2007
I must say I approached this novel with a certain amount of trepidation as I knew Rachel Johnson from her newspaper columns, and I was emphatically not a fan. They always seemed to want to show off - often about really mundane things , so one felt embarrassed for the author.
But the novel seems to be made of sterner stuff! I was totally surprised that not only was it not as feckless and show-offy as I had feared, it was really accomplished. The point of view technique of how the two narrators see each other is brilliantly executed and manages to move the action along as well as being rather hilarious. I also liked the way the time-line was skilfully used to allow for flash-backs, filling in gaps in the narrative and thereby changing the pace of the plot. A few hiccups remain -one really doesn't want to read the expression "A-listers" in a novel, and the animal attraction of Mimi to billionaire Si sounds a bit ropey. Still - I was massively impressed how Rachel Johnson manages to write a novel which is funny, entertaining , thoroughly modern and still retains elements of a now sadly nostalgic seeming English wholesomeness and wistfulness.
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HALL OF FAMEon 9 September 2006
For those who wondered whether life in Notting Hill is really the way Richard Curtis portrayed it in his film, Rachel Johnson's novel is a withering risposte. Don't be deceived by the trappings of glossy magazine designer labels, the occasional Jilly Cooperish puns about sex and the general YOU magazine stuff about Yummy Mummies. This is a portrait of hell, as lived by the super-rich.

It goes without saying that most readers will not know this life, or feel remotely sympathetic towards any of the characters, so it may be best to view them as being as weird as Desperate Housewives or bankers in Manhattan. The story is told through the eyes of two fortyish wives living on "Lonsdale Gardens", whose pistachio-painted mansions all back onto one of the areas famous private gardens. Clare is the childless wife of a modern architect remarkably similar to Johnson's neighbour (as we know from her columns), John Paulson, and Mimi sounds rather like Johnson herself being an "impoverished" mother of three and freelance journalist who can afford her house only because her posh husband Ralph inherited it back when NH was full of poor Afro-Caribbeans. Now it's a life of "haves and have-yachts", in which interior decoration is carried out on an annual basis and if one Mummy gets a swimming pool in her basement, everyone else must get one too.

The plot is pretty simple. Mimi falls for billionaire new neighbour Si Kasparian and enjoys a brief adulterous affair with him until discovering he's also shagging the gorgeous teacher at Ponsonby Prep. Clare is unaware that her husband is trying it on with every woman but her, but falls for Mimi's husband - a man so stuffily Old Etonian that he prefers fly-fishing to conversation. In the space of a year, their friendship, neighbours, spouses and children go through a succession of feuds, rivalries, gossip and scandal all revolving around the "Garden of Eden" that is their back yard.

As you might expect from this clever, witty columnist the detail of their lives is more riveting than what they do with it. Being able to pop into your neighbours for a cup of pine nuts and some Italian 000 flour might sound like bliss but not only does it mean it's open season on adultery and scandal-mongering but everyone is in a frenzy of competitiveness. Your children must be either gifted or Special Needs; you need not just a Nanny but a housekeeper and a cleaner; you have your window-boxes feng shuied; you have incessant food intolerances that means you only eat £80 joints of lamb and never allow your children to touch goes on and on. Hideously funny and weirdly compelling, they are exactly the kind we are supposed to admire and emulate, according to the media. The author knows them inside-out, and like Balzac is more than half seduced by them even as she eviscerates their idiotic routines, mindless consumption, holier-than-thou eco-friendliness (involving having three cars and your own Lear jet). Johnson's Mimi is forced to sell up and move to the country for a "simple" life of the kind Marie Antoinette no doubt envisaged when dressing as a shepherdess. Notting Hell is much nastier than it may appear beneath the oleaginous descriptions of lovely Johnny Boden, Kate Moss, Emma Freud etc., and should be distributed by the Labour Party to remind us all of just what, precisely, David Cameron really stands for.
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on 6 February 2016
Yes, this book made me laugh a lot. I purchased it in 2007 and it has just reached the top of 'my books to read pile'! The book is full of endless cliche's, name dropping and has an unbelievable overdose of product placement, which becomes quite ridiculous. Rachel Johnson is witty and has a lot of balls. She has a great talent for making very apt descriptions, I emailed her once, didn't get a response surprise surprise, to congratulate her for her wonderful description of Gordon Brown as a dying Grouper.
It is quite obvious from the start that Johnson very very thinly disguises herself as Mimi. Although the book has a certain predictability about it, and she does in some parts seem to be padding it out, I look forward to reading more of her books, the ending to Notting Hell cleverly leaves us guessing. It has all the ingredients for a light film or TV series, maybe she had that in mind when she wrote it.
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on 8 July 2015
Some good observations but dull with no story. I couldn't finish it.
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on 26 September 2006
Rachel Johnson's book Notting Hell is a very funny, amusing, approaching brilliant at times, look at life in W11. Her acute observations of communal garden living and take on life of what is viewed as the norm -left me wishing that more of the second part of the book was like the first sixty pages. A very easy read and very enjoyable.
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on 26 April 2013
Good, light escapist nonsense poking fun at the yummy mummy/designer-slaves brigade in a gentle manner. Worth a read if you want some light amusement.
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