Home > 2000, 21st Century, Australian Literature, Beach and Public Transports Books, Chick Lit, Heiss Anita > Not Meeting Mr Right by Anita Heiss – Being choc-lit is not enough

Not Meeting Mr Right by Anita Heiss – Being choc-lit is not enough

Not Meeting Mr Right by Anita Heiss (2007) French title: Je n’ai pas (encore) rencontré l’homme ideal. Translated by Viriginie Lochou.

I first heard of Aboriginal writer Anita Heiss on Lisa’s blog when she reviewed Barbed Wires and Cherry Blossoms, a book I decided to read. Unfortunately, it’s not available on my kindle store but Not Meeting Mr Right was. I knew it was chick lit and remembered Lisa’s introduction of Anita Heiss as a chick lit writer. Here’s what she wrote:

Heiss writes what she calls choc-lit with a purpose: writing to engage non-Indigenous Australians with light-hearted novels about people ‘just like herself’, modern independent women who have or want to have great careers, women who network within great friendships, women who fall in and out of love, and women who face challenges and have their share of loss, failure or success.

I enjoyed following Bridget Jones’s ups and downs, so I thought I should try choc-lit from down under.

This is how I started with Alice Aigner and her group of friends Dannie, Peta and Liza. Alice is 28 of Koori and European descent. She’s a history teacher at a Catholic school in Sydney. She lives in Coogee and she’s single. She was happily single until she had a change of heart at a friend’s engagement party. She decides she’ll be married when she turns thirty and embarks on a dating journey that more like the trail of hell than an unwinding promenade along the beach.

I should have known what to expect, really, but I was still hopeful that it would be more choc than chick and boy, how disappointed I was. The only redeeming part of this book for this reader is the learning of Australian colloquial words like postie, arvo or sickie . I discovered what French knickers are – I wasn’t aware that we had specific ones, mind you – or that people might throw some roo in the wok. I’d never heard of kitchen teas and didn’t know that Western Sydney has the highest population of urban Aboriginal people in the country.

Some thoughts about interactions between whites and Aborigines were thrown here and there because Alice being a Koori is sometimes an issue. It was mildly interesting.

For the rest. Yuck. At least Bridget Jones Diary had the workplace part that was hilarious. Here we only have the dating drama and drinking. I kept reading because I hoped developments on the place of Aborigines in Sydney and I started to see the language angle and how educational it could be. But Alice, wow, no wonder she’s single. What a piece of work she is, always finding her dates lacking and never questioning herself. Here she is after another unhappy love affair, throwing an internal tantrum:

I concluded that all men were basically emotional cripples or completely illogical or both. Even though they didn’t think like we did, they could at least be considerate enough to think like each other, so that there was some consistency to their irrational behaviour.

Right. She makes a big deal out of every outing and spends hours waxing, relaxing, doing her nails, her hair, her makeup. You’d think she was competing in the Olympic Dating Games. She wants everything and its opposite. No sex on the first date but enough tension to feel it could be a possibility. Romantic outings are requested but also being ready for family diners. She dissects everything:

He had invited me to dinner on a Friday night, too – it was a very positive sign. A lunch invitation is good, but a dinner invitation is much better. Dinner means a serious invite. A date on a Friday is a really serious date, much more serious than dinner on a Tuesday or Wednesday. He didn’t say Thursday, because it’s payday – not like Simple Simon. Yes, it was certainly looking good.

Does she think that men want to be studied like bugs?

I’ve been married for a long time now but I kept wondering if there are actual Alices in this world or if they are just a stereotype for chick lit. I have no idea of what the dating scene is like nowadays, so I’ll make assumptions.

If single women are like Alice, I truly understand why men run for the hills and want to stay far, far away from them. These ladies are scary. If these ladies exist, I’ll recommend them to try being low maintenance without being a doormat and that should do the trick for coupledom.

If these characters don’t exist in real life and are only chick lit books creatures, then my question is more about the impact of these characters on teenagers and young adults. Do they read them as an indulgence with the appropriate suspension of belief or do they imagine that the real world is like that? I don’t have the answer to this question.

I can’t say I enjoyed Not Meeting Mr Right as a book but I still got something out of it, if only the Australian spoken language vibe. I still want to read Barbed Wires and Cherry Blossoms though. Hopefully I’ll manage to buy it during the summer. I’m not good at reading non-fiction otherwise I’d try one of Heiss’s essays.

PS: I was really surprised to find out that Not Meeting Mr Right has been translated into French. It seems unfair that this one is available to the French public but not That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott. *sigh*

  1. June 3, 2018 at 10:34 am

    *chuckle* Ah, the vagaries of translation, eh?
    Last year I went to a translation symposium where an Australian author talked about how successful her novels are in France in translation. Wow, I thought, and immediately borrowed a couple from the library. But, oh dear, they were not very good and I sent them back to the library unread, cross at the idea that French readers might judge Australian writing by these examples. Because it is strange, what we get in translation in Australia is the *best of* EuroLit, not popular fiction.

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    • June 3, 2018 at 10:38 am

      Was that Karen Viggers? I’ve seen her books several times, picked them up and thought “no thanks”

      I think the difference between what you get and what we get in translation is due to our respective approach of translation. Here nobody cares that it’s a translation. All kinds of readers read translated books. In the Anglo-Saxon world, IMO translations are read mostly by “advanced” readers. So they don’t translate popular fiction unless it’s crime fiction.

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      • June 3, 2018 at 10:43 am

        You could be right. I think it has to do with two things: whether a publisher thinks there will be a market for it (‘advanced readers, yes; crime, yes, children’s books, no etc). But it also has to do with how the books come to attention as possible suitable for translation. Apart from the obvious prize-winners, how do the other books get chosen? Will Firth (an Aussie translator working in Europe) tells us in an article on my blog, that he sometimes comes across a book that he enjoyed and then recommends it for translation. So the personal taste of translators comes into the equation too.

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        • June 3, 2018 at 10:52 am

          It depends on the potential market, yes. There’s more room for crime fiction.

          Interesting comment from Will Firth. Translators are excellent ambassadors for books. If I were a writer, I’d be flattered to be recommended for translation by a translator.
          Otherwise, yes, it’s not exact science and I’m glad it isn’t.

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          • June 3, 2018 at 11:03 am

            I wish there was a way we could put in requests for translations!

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            • June 3, 2018 at 11:06 am

              There’s always twitting to publishers

              Like

  2. June 3, 2018 at 11:45 am

    I don’t think this is for me, it sounds awful 😦 Admittedly I’m not really a reader of chick lit but I can see that Bridget Jones was witty & we weren’t meant to take her entirely seriously. She also knew her own shortcomings. Alice sounds insufferable.

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    • June 3, 2018 at 12:00 pm

      Bridget Jones was a fun read: there were all her misadventures at work, and yes, she didn’t take herself seriously. And we knew it.

      Alice got on my nerves. What I can’t decipher is whether I’m so out of touch that I don’t realise how younger generations are or whether she’s an implausible character. It’s probably a bit of the two.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. June 3, 2018 at 12:15 pm

    Certainly not for me. I remember I was always getting in trouble with the other women at work for not liking Bridget Jones, Ally McBeal (does anyone still remember her?), Sex and the City and all that stuff. Not that I don’t like women’s fiction, but why were they all so obsessed about men?

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    • June 3, 2018 at 12:38 pm

      Honestly, Bridget Jones was funny.

      For the rest, I agree with you, what’s with the obsession?

      The dating rituals seems more formal in the Anglo-Saxon world than they are here, but what do I know. I’ve been “off the market” for a while now.

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      • June 3, 2018 at 12:41 pm

        I always used to think: ‘Don’t they have anything else to worry about?’ even back when I was on the market.

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        • June 3, 2018 at 12:45 pm

          I totally agree with you. What is true in these books though is that past a certain age, people start being suspicious of single persons and there’s social pressure to find a spouse.

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  4. June 3, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    I enjoy chick lit when I come across it and have read some of Heiss’ serious work, in particular Dhuuluu-Yala: To Talk Straight. But you have persuaded me to give this one a miss. Might I suggest you try (if you haven’t already) Marie Munkara.

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    • June 3, 2018 at 3:57 pm

      What do you like in these books and what do you think of them as a reader and as a man. No offence but you’re not the targeted audience for chick lit. I’m curious about your response to it.
      This was my first Heiss. Thanks for the recommendation.

      Like

      • June 3, 2018 at 10:56 pm

        I abhor violence, like romance, am a sucker for happy endings, comedy, what’s not to like with chick lit. I came to it via the strange path of the high romantic ideals of late C19th young men’s fiction particularly PC Wren (Beau Ideal, Beau Geste) and yes I know he’s early C20th, but also Jane Austen.

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        • June 4, 2018 at 9:57 pm

          Thanks for your answer.
          I don’t know who PC Wren is, I will look him up.

          Like

  5. June 3, 2018 at 5:32 pm

    Oh dear. I hit the part about her deciding to get married by age 30, and had a very negative reaction.

    Like

    • June 3, 2018 at 7:29 pm

      Yes. A project doomed to failure because that kind of goals don’t agree with deadlines.
      Definitely not for me, so obviously not for you at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Jonathan
    June 3, 2018 at 6:44 pm

    What an interesting review about a book I would never consider reading. I gave up on Bridget Jones after a few pages and vowed never to try anything like it again. Like you, I wonder whether these types of characters exist in real life or whether they are purely fictional creations. I used to think something similar about characters in popular US films of the ’80s where we often had the ‘smart-arse’ (ass?) kid (à la Ferris Bueller) and where every bar was populated by greasy pool-playing bikers ready for a punch-up. The ’90s & ’00s saw the rise of the sassy career-woman who was obsessed with shopping and sex. All seemed unreal to me.

    Like

    • June 3, 2018 at 7:33 pm

      There’s something good to take out of any book, I suppose. It helps being tolerant when you don’t read in your native language.
      I didn’t make the connection with films but you’re right. There are stereotypes as well there.
      Like you I tend to think these typed don’t exist in real life but I wonder if these books/films create them.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. June 4, 2018 at 6:10 am

    Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms really is quite different! I hope you get to read it some day.

    Like

    • June 4, 2018 at 9:57 pm

      I’ll try to get it this summer, I hope to find it in a bookstore.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. June 4, 2018 at 5:03 pm

    I rather bounced off the goal to get married by 30 too. It seems an odd sort of ambition. Should one not meet the potential spouse first?

    Otherwise, the thing with Bridget Jones is that it was actually very good. I used to read it when it was a newspaper serial and it was a lot of fun. Possibly more so in that form than as a novel I suspect. This, this sounds like formula. Formula done to a purpose as you say – to take a standardised form of novel and include a protagonist from a demographic not normally depicted – but that still leaves it as a formulaic novel. Bridget Jones helped create the formula which is a much more interesting thing to do.

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    • June 4, 2018 at 10:01 pm

      I totally agree with the silly deadline. As if getting married was a goal in itself.

      And I also agree about the formula. That’s how it felt, like someone baking a cake following a recipe. A bit of sass, a bit of crude words, copious moments of pampering, a gay colleague as token,… Yes, Bridget Jones set the template and some replicas feel tasteless.

      Like

  1. July 16, 2018 at 9:01 am
  2. July 16, 2018 at 9:01 am
  3. January 3, 2019 at 6:31 pm

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