"It's 7am. The backbone of the ski resort, young, hungover and wheezing has risen, scratched its arse, coughed its lungs up, possibly vomited and dragged itself through a snow drift to work, frying sausages and making beds for the rich and reckless. Welcome to the land of the Chalet Bitch."
Meet Belle de Neige. In case you haven't encountered her yet, she's an anonymous British chalet girl with an acerbic tongue who writes an entertaining blog on life serving foreign aristocrats in a luxury French ski resort.
We were gripped from the first time we read her blog. So, when her debut novel called Belle de Neige: Tales of Catastrophe, Sex and Squalor From The Alpine Underbelly dropped on the Whitelines doorstep, we knew exactly what we were in for.
Sex, swearing, drugs, more swearing, riding powder, vomming in the street, tales of disgusting habits of the aristocracy and a litany of alpine cock-ups pretty much sums it up - all written with Belle's trademark turn of phrase that'll have you sniggering into the pages on your morning commute. This is anything but chick lit.
It's packed full of funny anecdotes - from falling in the semen-laced water of a dirty hot tub to dealing with a drunk Ukranian accidentally climbed into bed with one of her guest's children
Despite the jaunty cover and promise of hilarity, Belle de Neige unexpectedly starts with a poignant description of death. This is shortly followed by an existential crisis and a swift upheaval from life as a cushy London career girl to the grime and squalor of being a ski chalet host - delivered in short, bite-sized chapters.
You're introduced to all the major characters early on - La Vache Qui Ski (knobhead resort manager), Irksome 19-Year-Old Blonde (snobbish, vacuous fellow chalet bitch), Skater Boy ("ne'er-do-well studenty-ski-bum-type with no prospects and personal hygiene issues") and so many others, who all provide excellent one-liners. No detail (however grotty) is spared by Belle de Neige.
It's packed full of funny anecdotes - from falling in the scummy, semen-laced water of a dirty hot tub to dealing with a drunk Ukranian who has accidentally climbed into bed with one of her guest's children - interspersed with random musings on life and wise advice for any "slumdog seasonaire".
You'll find yourself relating all too often to Belle's rantings about appalling guests, pube-clogged plugs, incapacitating hangovers and the declining state of humanity. She puts into words all those things you've often thought, but never had the nerve to say out loud. Particularly if you've worked in the hospitality industry.
I powered through the book as though I was living Belle de Neige's life in fast-motion. And I'll be honest, I was pretty sad when it ended
But it's not all drunken anecdotes and amusing caricatures. There's darker edge that's introduced in the first chapter and lingers to the very end - from the death of her best friend to the borderline gang rape incident to the perils of skiing at night while on ket (answer: don't do it).
As a first book, it's a really good read. It needs editing in parts, as I did find myself reading the same phrases a handful of times. Some might argue not a lot happens in way of action. I also wanted to hear more about the other characters that litter the book but aren't always followed through. Did Man of Leisure get roped into joining the real world by his dad? What happened to Calamity? And Old Man Swiss? Something for the sequel perhaps, or maybe I need to dig a bit deeper into her blog.
I powered through the book as though I was living Belle de Neige's life in fast-motion. And I'll be honest, I was pretty sad when it ended. At 300-odd pages, it isn't a short book, but when you're caught up in the whirlwind chaos of Belle and her crew's slummy alpine existence, it's hard to put down. I just hope she writes another.
READ THIS IF:
You've ever done a season, or even if your haven't, because it's just plain hilarious.
You're a Russian bajillionaire who leaves skidmarks in the toilet. You may well feature inside.
We've got FIVE copies of Belle de Neige's book to give away for FREE! All you have to do is answer the following question and we'll pick five lucky winners at random. Competition closes Friday 28th March at 2.30pm. Good luck!