Monday 30 July 2018

Book Review: Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton.

Product details:
Publisher: Bloomsbury.
Paperback 288 pages.
Release date: July 1st 2018.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.

You can't fool them forever...

A Ripley story for the Instagram age set in contemporary New York; a world at once sophisticated and sordid, irresistible and irresponsible, unforgettable yet unattainable

Louise is struggling to survive in New York; juggling a series of poorly paid jobs, renting a shabby flat, being cat-called by her creepy neighbour, she dreams of being a writer. And then one day she meets Lavinia. Lavinia who has everything – looks, money, clothes, friends, an amazing apartment…

Lavinia invites Louise into her charmed circle, takes her to the best parties, bars, the opera, shares her clothes, her coke, her Uber account. Louise knows that this can't last for ever, but just how far is she prepared to go to have this life? Or rather, to have Lavinia's life?

It may be a long, hot summer, but there's certainly nothing light and frothy about Tara Isabella Burton's Social Creature, a darkly decadent debut which marries all the glamour of Gossip Girl with the absolute madness of Disco Bloodbath, in a tale of toxic friendship, total excess and death.

New York, New York: It's the city that never sleeps; the city of a thousand (broken) dreams. They say if you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere, but if you haven't made it by the time you turn thirty, then you might as well move back home and settle down with that nice-but-boring guy you used to date (your mother loves him!) and did you know that he recently inherited the (rather prosperous!) family business (three stores and counting!) and is still a bachelor (after all these years!) to boot. Time to give up on yourself and your dreams and go pop out some sprogs – the more the merrier!

Meet Louise Wilson, 29, and running out of time.

An aspiring, though as-yet-unpublished writer, Louise works three jobs just to make rent on her crummy apartment in an even crummier part of town. The upside of this is that Louise is thin - because she can't afford to eat. You may not see that as the silver lining in this scenario, but that's because you've never lived in NYC.

Louise is one of life's 'have not's'. No matter how hard she tries, it seems that Louise is destined to live a down-at-heel existence of home hair dyes and Salvation Army clothes for the rest of her days. That is, until she lands a well-paid gig tutoring a teen called Cordelia, who lives in a lush apartment with her older sister, Lavinia. Ah, Lavinia. Now, that's where this story gets interesting. Full of whimsy and wonder, hard-partying Lavinia doesn't actually pay Louise for tutoring her sister, but she does adopt Louise as her shiny new play thing, a real-life Barbie Doll, if you will. Lavinia dresses Louise up in her fabulous clothes, perfecting her hair and make-up, before taking her out on the town to introduce her to a wonderful world of New York glitterati. Soon, Louise is partying it up with New York scenesters, with names such as Beowulf Marmont and Athena Maidenhead and it is all so FABULOUS. Until it's not. Because you know the Lavinia's of this world, right? That's right. They get bored - fast.  And they move on to the next shiny new thing.

But Louise likes her new life. And she's not about to give it up. Not for Lavinia. Not for anyone. New York, New York: The song talks about 'making it' but fails to mention what it takes – or how far some people will go – to maintain 'it' once you've reached the top.

A shades-of-Ripley tale for these fake-it-till-you make it (or get arrested trying!) Anna Delvey times, Social Creature, though it failed to impress me in parts, most notably in its conclusion, is nonetheless a worthy (and deliciously-written) cautionary tale for anyone who lives their life through the wide-eyed, rose-tinted gloss of an Instagram filter.

 Read it if you enjoyed: Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll, Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little and Disco Bloodbath by James St. James.

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