I like to check out reviews on booklikes and goodreads after I read a book, to see if I am on the same page as my friends or others with tastes similar to mine. Sometimes I find they loved something I didn’t, and vice versa. On this book, I find that I am right in line with the rating and response this book seems to have garnered. Despite huge hype and an equally large advance, my feelings on the book are more middle of the road. I am a fan of debut authors, though, and this NY Times reporter has crafted an interesting, albeit depressing cautionary tale.
I should preface my comments with a salient fact: I am probably too old for this story. I read this with a feeling similar to when I watched the first episode of “Girls” – when I had to admit (as a working mom) that a leading character who believes, at the age of 24, that her parents should fund her while she works a no-pay job and writes her memoir, is completely unappealing to me, and, frankly, makes me feel old and cranky. There, I’ve said it. Somewhere between that and “leaning in” is the happy medium I consider home. When you read the summary provided by the publisher, you will see words like “social-climber” and, in one article I read, “striver”. These are not good words, and, if they are applied with real effort, they also seem to imply, “wait, there is going to be a huge train wreck-implosion up ahead”. So that, at least was totally worth it. (Does this make me a bad person?)
I feel depressed by books like these because, while they offer up irony and humor when describing ludicrous lifestyles, I know they also mirror a segment of our society, and offer up a blueprint for others trying to be a part of it. One reviewer I read compared it to Austen, and, having just read another Austen-themed book, I can see the parallels here — the outsider trying to get in, the fall from grace, etc. But here’s the thing: I did not like Evelyn Beegan. So when she fell, and of course she did (sorry), I was not sad. But as I said, I am probably too old. I felt for her mother – who Evelyn criticized and belittled, and was gratified as I realized how like her mother she had become. Ha!
But in the end, even I can admit that it kept me reading, despite my inability to relate to anyone in the eclectic cast of characters, except maybe the poor friends Evelyn carelessly tossed aside in her striving to build a new “social network”. Clifford is no Jane Austen, perhaps, (but that may be a tall order for a debut) — I will be interested to see what she comes up with next.