A love letter to the prototypical rom-com ... Romantic Comedy is partly an extrapolation of a fascinating workplace and partly a contemporary romance novel. In some of the book’s most compelling passages, Sally talks about shedding her subconscious need for male approval at work ... A fizzy ride ... If you, like so many women, are feeling recently jilted by a too-good-to-be-true male lover, then Romantic Comedy can be a pleasing antidote to his failures ... But to enjoy Romantic Comedy is to fall for its premise: that it’s reasonable for Sally to be surprised that someone like Noah would be interested in her. You have to believe that Sally’s precipitously low self-esteem is low enough for this particular romantic comedy. Sometimes it is ... But other times, this 'conflict' feels largely unearned ... The book is not a full parody of rom-com wish fulfillment, nor is it steeped in irony about the form. Instead, it lives somewhere in the middle, neither committing to the bit nor criticizing it.
Has a lot going for it, starting with truth in advertising ... The story’s romance is appropriately spring-loaded with improbability. What really energizes the story, though, is its setting in America’s most venerable comedy factory: Saturday Night Live ... In Sittenfeld’s quick-paced prose, the work becomes terrifically exciting and reminds us how rarely we get to see what people actually do at the office ... What makes all this particularly delightful is that the woman narrating Romantic Comedy is hyper-aware of the conventions of romantic comedy, and she knows full well that real life is no fairy tale.
I found myself wishing for a greater helping of Sittenfeld’s dark humor ... I wonder if the author, having decided to set a novel in the world of comedy, may have second-guessed her instincts. Some of the jokes here are undercut by apologies ... By the end, I was rooting for the two of them to make it to the romantic finish line. Noah, though, may be more of a woman’s fantasy of a man than a fully fleshed out (sparring) partner for Sally ... Sittenfeld, with this diverting and easily devoured novel, may have scored an overdue victory of sorts for gender parity.
Isn’t trying to be anything it’s not. Featuring a hunky pop star and a nerdy writer at the story’s helm, plenty of obstacles to prevent their getting together and more than a few scenes of steamy hanky-panky at the end, it’s got all the trade hallmarks of the genre ... Did I enjoy the time I spent with Romantic Comedy on the couch? Begrudgingly, yes ... Must Sally — or any rom-com heroine, for that matter — feel so darn unworthy all the time, even if it’s to uphold an (outdated) characteristic of the genre? Would it have killed the book’s premise if Sally’s self-esteem were just a smidge higher, if her interactions with Noah were just a bit less neurotic and a lot more self-assured given that she’s a smart, successful writer in a notoriously cutthroat profession and in a tough-as-nails city where men are paid more and almost always given the top billing?
Sittenfeld deftly toggles between deconstructing a well-worn genre and leaning into its most predictable beats ... Any awkwardness that might have ensued from the incorporation of the pandemic into a romantic comedy (a combination of too soon? and in a comedy?) is rescued by the fact that Sittenfeld mobilizes it almost wholly as a plot device, an ingenious choice that smartly doesn’t make COVID the main narrative impetus ... At times, Sittenfeld’s sparkling banter reads like the populist’s version of a Sally Rooney novel. Sittenfeld’s prose is a bit more colloquial and her plotlines more classically structured, but both are indebted to the novel’s long tradition of epistolary romance—the progenitor, in some sense, of sexting ... This epistolary bent is one of the most winning aspects of her book ... Sittenfeld treads a fine line between writing a romantic comedy and upending it—and it’s a line that grows fuzzier as Sally and Noah finally reunite in the final section (at his mansion, no less) and fall in love. In breaking the Danny Horst Rule, however, they end up fulfilling all the rules of the romantic comedy. Or, to put it another way, what begins as the romance of comedy eventually melts away into the romance of romance. But maybe that’s okay. After all, many a feminist reworking of the rom-com lies precisely in this gray zone—one in which reclaiming the genre is hard to disentangle from simply taking its fantasies seriously to begin with.
Sittenfeld has fun with the conventions of this fizzy genre (she maybe could have had a little more fun with the title, which seems a bit basic. Like a subtitle working above its pay grade) ... This (overly long) section of soul-baring and history-sharing is followed by the Grand Gesture, and then some other pretty nice gestures, too, set deep in COVID times. Noah proves to be not only gorgeous and talented, but also intuitive, insightful and a living saint. Sally stays a little bit annoying with her obsessive concern about her looks, but if you think that's going to stop the Fairy Tale Ending from coming, well, I've got a piece of land in Florida ... The book is strongest when it's doing its reality-adjacent thing in the first section — the sketch ideas, the comic banter among writers and cast, the inside look at how sort-of funny ideas are workshopped and molded into their best and funniest selves are great fun. Come for that, stay for the wish fulfillment.
A non-condescending, feminist plotline—well, that’s a worthy goal for a novel, too. Sad to say, Romantic Comedy is a let-down. It neither freshens the rom-com form nor twists its conventions. Shopworn tropes have a safe space here ... Sally’s so-so physical appeal is a source of rumination and rue. That angst forms the shaky scaffolding of Romantic Comedy ... A pat story with wince-inducing dialogue.
Sally doesn’t manage to write the great romcom of her dreams – maybe because she’s too busy living one. Does Sittenfeld? Alas, in the end, not quite. There’s so much to applaud here. Sittenfeld is such a witty writer, so the banter and sketches are funny enough to feel as though we really are in the company of America’s funniest sketch writers. It’s a moving and compulsive novel ... But there’s a tidiness that risks becoming slightness in Sittenfeld’s novel. It may be that not enough goes wrong ... Despite this, at its most expansive, Sittenfeld’s novel continues her wider project of exploring the possibility for a kind of redemptive idealism within our flawed world.
Tighter than Rodham but it’s ambitious too, navigating with unfussy panache tricky yet somehow already well-tilled terrain such as Covid-19 and modern celebrity as well as writing itself, a subject few novels manage to portray without accusations of self-indulgence ... The structure of the novel’s first third, centred on the frenzied tension of the week-long countdown to live transmission, is electrically compelling, with steady warmth as well as drama generated by the camaraderie and jostling for preferment among writers and actors hoping their ideas are the ones that will make the cut. Sittenfeld even manages to create page-turning interest from the nuts and bolts of composition ... Throughout, the novel’s command of structure, pace and dialogue is faultless ... Affable, intelligently crafted.
[Sittenfeld] dives in with Romantic Comedy, taking on romance, comedy, and the pandemic with frustratingly mixed results ... Sittenfeld keeps it funny and feminist ... The flawed heroine and seemingly perfect hero are classic romance tropes. But the funny, feminist, contemporary romance novelists who deploy them to perfection, like Jasmine Guillory, Emily Henry, Sonali Dev, and Ali Hazelwood, know that for a romance to maintain its energy, the heroine needs to be perfect in her own way and the hero needs flaws ... Romantic Comedy has a lovely ending: poignant, funny, and satisfying. If I’d just read the first 130 and last 30 pages, I’d be giving this book a rave. But structure only gets you so far, even in romance.
Does Sittenfeld deliver? Yes, she most certainly does – as you’d expect from the author of boarding school novel Prep, revered as she is for her ability to take genres predisposed to cliché and transform them into something original. Romantic Comedy succeeds because its two leads, an ordinary woman and a superstar man, are fully-formed creatures ... It’s not Sittenfeld’s first rodeo when it comes to rom coms. She rewrote Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as a book called Eligible in 2016, and she brings the same arch sensibilities, fun and delightfully detailed, cool, clear prose to this love affair.
Dialogue zips and zings as hearts plummet and soar through Sally and Noah’s meeting, misunderstanding, and years-later rapprochement as COVID-19 dawns. Sittenfeld’s meta-romance is an utterly perfect version of itself, a self-aware and pandemic-informed love story that’s no less romantic for being either.
Sittenfield’s writing is crisp and current, and her cultural references make this tender story sizzle ... She consistently proves herself as one of the most readable contemporary novelists. Her books are impossible to put down, and the characters will continue to swim around in readers’ minds long after the final chapters.
The book falters somewhat in its quick resolution; given how many pages Sally spends pondering the oddity of her dating Noah, it's disappointing that comparatively little time is devoted to exploring others' reactions to their actual relationship. Overall, though, the work is a pleasure, balancing probing analysis with an absorbing narrative ... Romance artfully and entertainingly deconstructed.
The culture wars and political drama of Sittenfeld’s best work are absent in her underwhelming latest ... There’s some brilliant character work, but as Cinderella stories go, this doesn’t quite stand out.