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The Crack Magazine

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Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld

US author Curtis Sittenfeld’s 2005 debut novel ‘Prep’ is one my favourite accounts of student life. Smart, enthralling and never weighed down by its lengthy narrative, it went on to become something of a cult-classic. But it was Sittenfeld’s 2008 novel ‘American Wife’, that really pushed her to the fore, using the fictional character of Alice Blackwell to tell a version of former First Lady Laura Bush’s life. Sittenfeld also scored a big hit with ‘Rodham’, an alternate history novel that imagined what life would have been like for Hilary Rodham if she’d never married Bill Clinton. For Sittenfeld’s latest, she’s largely steered away from politics for a novel that flags up its genre by dint of its title. ‘Romantic Comedy’ concerns Sally Milz, a resident of New York City who is one of the most feted writers on ‘The Night Owls’ – a weekly satirical sketch show that is obviously based on ‘Saturday Night Live’. Her love life – such as it is – largely concerns unfulfilling hook-ups with someone she’s met online. But when Noah – a pop idol with a penchant for dating younger models – agrees to guest host the show one week, Sally wonders if there might be a spark between them. ‘Romantic Comedy’ scores big on giving readers an insight into the machinations of a TV writers-room, and there’s a lovely extended section – conducted by email during lockdown – in which the protagonists’ relationship really ebbs and flows. As with any good romantic comedy of course, there is much will-they-won’t-they stuff to overcome – and some of it feels a tad contrived here – but Sittenfeld is incapable of writing a boring narrative, and this fairly rattles along while hitting readers up with plenty of laughs along the way. RM