Books

The Chocolate Money – Ashley Prentice Norton

Meet Babs and Bettina, the most unlikely paring you will probably find.

Babs is the heiress to one of the largest fortunes in America , Ballentyne Chocolates. Babs does nothing, she simply is Babs, she spends her time organising parties, attending them, buying clothes, being pampered and preened and indulging her excesses with any man she chooses.

When she has none of this to do she talks at not to Bettina – she tells her ten year old daughter of all her conquests and correct sexual performance for pleasing a man. Babs thinks nothing of exposing Bettina to some of the seedier parts of society in late seventies/early eighties Chicago. All Bettina wants is to be a normal child, have a normal family and have a father attend the dad’s breakfast at school and be openly loved by her mother, rather than openly despised as an inconvenience.

But even that is difficult, because although Bettina must have a father, Babs will not tell her who it is, and only the clue is a medallion given to Bettina that once belonged to him.

With all the money to do anything, Babs sends Bettina to a private boarding school where she tries desperately to fit in amongst peers who think being kissed by a boy is worthy of hours of debate with other friends. Bettina, thanks to her mother has a very adult way of looking at this teenage world and it is that which is ultimately her downfall. Bettina will never fit in and this time Babs cannot help her out.

Babs and Bettina are characters you can love to hate. Babs’s complete disregard for her daughter makes for very graphic and quite uncomfortable reading and I really was not sure if this book was for me to begin with. But once Bettina gets older and moves away to school, she becomes the one with the foul mouth and the descriptive graphic scenes. The apple did not fall far from the tree with this mother and daughter.

If you can see past the graphic and extreme scenes which litter this book, it is an interesting read. Especially in the respect of the psychology behind why these characters behaved as they did and no matter how much money you have, I do not think it can buy exactly what both Babs and Bettina were both looking for. I saw past the filth and wondered about what makes the people tick.

This book is a search for something else, the mystery of a happy life perhaps? A missing father? A desire to fit in? Whatever it is, I am not sure exactly where you would fit this book in – it seemed too young for adults but to adult for young adults. This is very much a cusp of adulthood book, perhaps to move away from the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon but I think it may well have picked up on elements of that for the book to sell? I may just be cynical. I can see children of Bettina’s age (around fifteen) reading it and passing it between their friends – this may be a book that perhaps taps into the American market more than the British market. Only time will tell.

Thank you to the publisher who sent me this book for review.

There is something about the book that drew me in to keep turning the pages and I finished it over a weekend quite easily. Certainly not a book of choice, and I would have been sucked in by the title, (there is very little to do with chocolate disappointingly) and also the rather stylish cover. However, if it wants to succeed perhaps avoid the obvious ‘grey’ connotations.

The book cover is a point of discussion I feel. It has the air of a book with glamour and the high society. It may well be grey to tap into that well know market, then again it could be to make it more elegant and sophisticated. 

But take a look at this cover – 

Having read the book, this seems totally inappropriate as a cover, I feel rather shocked by it.  It is a complete contradiction to what you are going to get between the covers. That said, the edition at the top of this post, is also not what you are going to get, but lends itself to being slightly more sophisticated? 

I will watch with interest regarding this book, and read various reviews and also the authors website where you can find out more about the book. I found some interesting articles about the author (herself an heiress) and her battle with depression. As well as a falling out with her mother, who Bab’s is based ‘slightly’ on – yes the naked Christmas Card (those family ones people send out!) did actually happen. 

If you ever read this book, let me know what you think.