The Competition by Katherine Collette
Following up her popular debut, The Helpline, Katherine Collette is back in fine form with The Competition, proving (in case anyone was in any doubt) that she is a skilled master of the light-hearted comedy – drawing you in, keeping you laughing, compelling you to feel emotionally invested in this quirky cast of characters.
Frances is a twentysomething-year-old who’s struggling to get her life together. Unbeknown to her parents (and using their ‘emergency’ credit card), she’s flown up to Brisbane to take part in the annual three-day SpeechMakers Championship. She’s not especially committed to SpeechMakers per se, but she does enjoy the idea of the $40,000 prize money. Rather than lose some of her annual leave, she rings in sick each morning to her supermarket deli job in Melbourne. Eight days a year are due to her after all, so why not cash them in?
Her SpeechMakers mentor, Keith (who Frances isn’t speaking to at the moment), has also travelled up to Queensland and is also keen to win the competition – not so much for the cash prize (although of course that’s always going to come in handy), but as a way to show his wife what he’s worth (she seems to think he’s worth not much).
Throw in a cast of endearing misfits, a friend-turned-enemy, some hideously ambitious rivals, and a growing corporate culture that is threatening to ruin the ‘no judgement’ ethos of SpeechMakers and you’ve got a really fun read. By the end I was unexpectedly touched at the direction the book had taken and laughing out loud at some of the ridiculous situations Frances got herself into. This is one I’d happily press into the hands of everyone who came into the shop, so go grab your towel, head down to the beach, and settle in with a new favourite book.