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3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 23 July 2000
I chose to buy this book as one of my 'summer reads' thinking it would be a light-hearted Bridget Jones-esq type story (as she is mentioned on the back of the cover) that would require just enough brain power to keep me amused and off the streets for a few hours during the hot summer months. However, I was delighted to discover that it was not at all like many of the millions of Bridget Jones look-alike books that have appeared on bookshop shelves in the last three years. I haven't finished reading it but so far I have found it original, funny, insightful and extremely cleverly written. I love the disjointed style and subtle descriptions of the characters.
I feel sad reading all the other reviews below as it seems that many people feel disappointed by this book.
I think it was pitched at the wrong market.
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on 7 December 2000
...OK, I read and loved Bridget Jones but let's face it, we are not talking "Don Quijote" here. There is no need to rank the merits of all novels written after Bridget depending on how similar they are to it!! Has everybody gone crazy! There is life after Bridget, you know, and this could be it.
"The Girls Guide" is not light-hearted comedy. It includes a brave witty heroine and the never ending quest for true love but it is deeper, better written and more touching than Bridget (here I go falling into the same comparison trap). It is not about what to wear to an exciting date, it is about feeling, about love itself, how it comes and how it goes and how a perfect man does not equal to perfect love. If you read it well it will make you laugh and it will make you cry and it will make you want to read it again after a while. What else can you ask from a book?
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on 26 April 2000
I just can't understand how this book came to receive those reviews that made me buy it. It fails as a serious reflection on mid-30s womanhood, it is not funny, it is not a page-turner, it is well writen, but far from a literary jewel.
I thought the first chapter, the story of the discovery by the main character of the highs and lows of love and relationships through his older brother's summer affair, was pretty good. It would have made a neat short story that would have me thinking: here we have a promising new writer.
The rest of the book is disposable. It filled up a long night train ride through central Europe. It will be soon forgotten.
As to that absurd middle chapter on the neighbours: what was it about? I suspect it meant to make the book "serious" by introducing something unexplained: so not-best-seller, so pretentious... ridiculous. Another good short story though.
A writer with some potential. A vacuous and boring book.
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on 2 May 2008
I absolutely loved this book - have owned it now for around 5 years and probably read the "You could be anyone" chapter once a year. Every part of it fills me up in every possible way - the sentence "he hugged me but all I could feel was flesh and bones" stays with me - it was a barometer of how I judged boyfriends over the years - did I just think of them as flesh and bones or as soul. I devoured this book - anyone who can read the "you could be anyone " chapter and not cry does not have a heart or soul. Strangely the two last chapters are my favourites which seems to contradict the majority of reviews on here.
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on 15 July 2000
Although there were parts that I enjoyed (mainly the beginning and the end), I found the rest of the book totally confusing. If anyone understands the point of the chapter about the neighbours, please make the connection for me, as to me, it just seemed like it was put there to take up some space. The cover was very misleading, and contrary to the blurb on the back, not nearly as much fun as staying in and watching 'sex and the city' (which is actually light hearted and funny).
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on 22 June 2016
I watched the film Suburban Girl (2007) starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alec Baldwin. It was a bit of a mess, but an interesting mess. I found the following vey wordy credit to be intriguing: Based on the Short Stories "My Old Man" and "The Worst Thing a Suburban Girl Could Imagine" from the book "The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing" by Melissa Bank. The film might be a messy dud, but the source stories might be better. So I took a chance on the book.

I vaguely remember it being heavily promoted in bookstores upon release back in 1999. There seem to be a lot of cheap second hand copies floating around. Presumably now it’s fallen into the category of once popular but now mostly unread once the hype had passed. Frankly it’s amazing to imagine a time when a collection of short stories could sell in such large quantities. Judging by other reviews I’ve read, a lot of people don’t seem to realise this is a collection of lightly linked short stories and not one big joined up narrative. To be fair, the book cover and blurb don’t scream out that this is a short story collection and not a novel.

1. "Advanced Beginners"

Jane’s brother’s older girlfriend visits the family holiday home.

A big blank nothing of a story. Why did I read this? What was interesting about it? Why was I supposed to be impressed by this? The bland writing style emphasised the blank emptiness of it. It was a waste of time reading this non-story. It was readable but deeply indifferent.

2 out of 5

2. "The Floating House"

Jane goes on holiday with her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend.

It’s okay. There’s not much to it but it reads okay.

3 out of 5

3. "My Old Man"

Jane begins a relationship with a much older man.

This was very skeletal. The upside was a very fast pace as it raced through the story by constantly jumping ahead. The downside was that the scenes were very barely there with sketchy details. Whole scenes could just be a few sentences long with a key line of dialogue and no more. The minimalist writing style was very readable but I’m not convinced it’s necessarily good writing. It’s easier to admire this technique than it is to actually love it. Some people might think it’s poetic in its brevity – for me it’s just slightly half-arsed writing bordering on lazy. It was okay.

3 out of 5

4. "The Best Possible Light"

Jane’s neighbours below have a family dinner. The son introduces his new girlfriend to his family. There is a slightly echo to the first story "Advanced Beginners" due to the subject matter. Jane does not appear in this story.

Again there’s not much to it. Substance is not necessarily the author’s strong point. It’s a rather mundane little half story of no great consequence. As readable and as enjoyable enough as it is, there’s no obvious purpose or point to it.

3 out of 5

5. "The Worst Thing a Suburban Girl Could Imagine"

Jane’s father reveals he has leukaemia and she reconnects with her older boyfriend again.

For a short story it’s not exactly short. It’s by far the longest story in the collection. It has a very similar skeletal story and minimalist prose style as "My Old Man". It’s basically a direct continuation of that story and you can see why these two were chosen to be adapted as the one movie. It’s okay. It has all the strengths and weakness of "My Old Man".

3 out of 5

6. "You Could Be Anyone"

Jane goes on holiday to Paris with a new boyfriend who suffers from mood swings. She later becomes ill.

This was a very short story at what seemed like only a handful of pages. It felt like it was going over the same old ground that had already been covered better in the previous stories. This was just weak. Also the near abstract minimalism of her sickness seemed like the author simply wasn’t interested in her illness. It felt to me that she couldn’t be bothered to write about it or do any research and so simply glossed over it as briefly as possible. It’s the weakest story in the collection.

2 out of 5

7. "The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing"

Jane uses a dating guide to attract a man.

This was the strongest of the seven stories in the book. It seemed like the most complete as an actual story but also the least accomplished as an in-depth character study. It’s as light and as fluffy as this non-fluffy writer gets (she might not be a heavyweight when it comes to substance but she writes with a serious demeanour). The film rights were bought for this story but no movie turned up. I can easily see a very loose rom-com film adaption of this. It has a great central gimmick of two dating gurus that only the lead character can see giving her nonstop advice.

3 out of 5

Flicking back to the earlier stories I see they were written in a similar minimalist style as the later ones. Overall it’s a very average collection of stories that range from weak to slightly above average. It’s a slim book that only took a short while to read. It’s okay but I wouldn’t go as far as recommending it to anyone.
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on 8 November 2014
Not funny. Not well written. Not deep.
Not made better by the fact that the protagonist's job is to read books and to filter out the many bad ones, often complaining bitterly about the lack of quality.
It made me laugh not once, in sharp contrast to the enthusiastic blurbs.
The next book I read was "The Man Who Forgot His Wife" by John O'Farrell, which contains more humour in one page than Bank's whole book.
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on 22 June 2000
I didnt really know what to expect from this book yet was surprised by what i did find. Although intelligently written, I found that because the format it was written in sort of had a stop, start about it i got lost a few times. I couldn't really identify with the characters as they were too one dimensional. I hoped that there would be some humour in the book and in fact did find a little wit in the last section. I read itin one day, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the book was any good. My curiosity kept me going, it had to lead somewhere. Unfortunately it led nowhere.
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on 13 August 1999
This is an excellent, well written, thoughtful and witty book. I found it easy to read and hard to put down! Alot of people have been comparing this book to Bridget Jones' Diary. Whislt both books' main characers are single girls in their late twenties/ early thirties, that's about where the similarities end. Bridget J is a great, fun book but A Girl's Guide to H and F is a thoughtful and compelling story. I thoroughly recommend this book.
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on 12 April 2001
I bought this book after reading a good review, and I wasn't disappointed. It is made up of several short stories, all related, and I get the feeling that they are quite autobiographical in nature. They are so beautifully written and absorbing that I kept stopping myself from reading too much at one sitting so as to keep more for another time. I can't wait for another book from her and would even pay for the hardback!
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