Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld – a novel for every reader

May 12, 2023

This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.

I was in the throes of divorce when I met Malcolm, my second husband, and it was an instant attraction.  So much so that we met for lunch the following day, and not only did I not go back to the office, but we spent the afternoon and evening together. Within a month, we were living together.

And so it is an instant attraction for Sally Miltz. Sally is a successful TV scriptwriter for TNO – aka The Night Owls – a late-night top-ranking TV show. Think The Fast Show – a weekly character and sketch-driven show as topical and funny as the writers can make it.

Sally has also been married and divorced and she has decided that she isn’t cut out for love.  Her office mate Danny is another scriptwriter. And, as far as Sally, and most people, are concerned, he is just an average Joe. Apart from the fact that he’s seriously dating a beautiful and high-profile actress.  This starts Sally’s brain working. She writes a sketch about how it is when old and crumbly millionaire men start dating a younger ‘model’; nobody bats an eyelid. But when a gorgeous older actress is with Joe Bus Driver or Peter Plumber, the world goes crazy.

And so when Sally meets Noah, a world-famous crooner and guest host on The Night Owl, she can’t believe it. Noah, this handsome man with piercing blue eyes who, as far as she is concerned, could date anybody. How could Noah possibly be interested in her? And so she writes several comedy sketches with parts for Noah that really make him the butt of the joke.  Noah doesn’t mind.  And then, talking at the after-show party, they have a stupid disagreement, and Sally goes home.  She had convinced herself that Noah, unbelievably, had been flirting with her. But Sally being Sally told herself that he, of course, was just being nice. She thought this because she was the scriptwriter, and she believed he couldn’t possibly be attracted to her.

Fast forward a couple of years later, and it’s Covid lockdown. Sally is at home in Kansas with her soon-to-be 80 stepdad and the adorable Sugar his beagle.  And then Noah emails her.

What happens next is the most wonderful series of emails I have ever read.  Fun, chatty, getting-to-know-you emails – it’s a true meeting of minds with both of them on the same way length.

I absolutely adore this novel  – the way in which Sally and Noah’s love grows without realising,  the way in which Noah overcomes all of Sally’s inhibitions and anxieties –  he even understands when she has to poo in a far distant bathroom because – well, just because.

I’ve been there. Malcolm and I would talk on the phone for hours. The conversation would range between a million different topics. Sally and Noah are not yet lovers. However, it seems that the author, Curtis Sittenfeld, has delved deep into the psyche of lovers’ talk despite Sally and Noah not being lovers. I have never read a more emotional series of emails in my life. 

“Romantic Comedy” deserves to be on every bookshelf – it’s a masterclass in romantic writing without being in any way slushy, sexy or over the top. The in-jokes, the remembered asides that you didn’t think he’d heard. It’s the way every pair of lovers would like to see themselves.  

And above all, it’s a paean to know that you don’t have to be gorgeous, with thin thighs and designer clothes for your partner – however high in status, wealth and looks he is –  to absolutely adore and worship you. 

I can’t praise this novel highly enough – I just want everybody to read and enjoy it.  It’s one of the best novels I have ever read.

For more Janet Gordon book reviews, click HERE.

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