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Reading from my shelves: July

Books started: 12

Books finished: 11

Books abandoned: 1

Books kept on the shelf: 8

 

The summer holidays are here and as I write, I’m sitting in a cabin perched above a loch in the far north west of Scotland.  There are more birds here than people (and definitely more midges!) and the world and its troubles seems very distant. Being amidst such a dramatic and timeless landscape helps to keep everything in a healthy perspective, and it is so refreshing to my spirit to at last have a proper change of scene, in a part of the world I’ve not explored before. Whilst I was at home in London throughout July, I struggled in a way I hadn’t really experienced throughout the lockdown period. Without the routine of my daily lessons and with limited opportunities to do much other than mooch around the now far too familiar streets of a miserably empty central London, I started to feel really quite trapped, and a despondency descended as each day dawned with so little to offer in terms of excitement or adventure. Reading helped, but it didn’t lift my mood entirely, and July, which I usually look forward to as the start of a lovely rest from the stress of summer term at school, filled with plenty of travel plans and reunions with far-off friends, became a mire of misery.  I indulged myself in this dark frame of mind by repeatedly thinking back to this time last year, when I was living it up in Washington D.C and New York with my much-loved and much-missed US friends, and kept googling pictures of Malawi, where I should have been right now, had coronavirus not arrived, teaching in a charity school for the summer. Not knowing when I can do anything again, or when things will change – the lack of control or agency I have over anything – has been, I think, the root of my struggles. So, spending some time amidst the still waters and magnificent mountainous horizons of Scotland is providing some much needed balm to my troubled soul, as I look up, around and beyond myself. I am lucky in so many ways, I know, with a secure job, income and home, and family and friends who have all, thankfully, so far remained well. I know I really don’t have anything to complain about. I’m hoping that a week of looking at so much natural beauty will sort me out, and have me back to my usual cheerful self!

In order to distract myself from the world around me, I read absolutely loads in July, and had a very successful run of excellent books that I thoroughly enjoyed, and in some cases, found wonderfully inspiring. I also got to some books I’ve been meaning to read for ages, and knew I probably wouldn’t like, but felt the need to get under my belt anyway. I read Henry James’ The Europeans and Washington Square; I’ve never liked James but wondered if I had just read him when I was too young to appreciate him. Lots of people advised these two shorter novels (or perhaps novellas?) as the best entry point, and I wondered whether I might find brilliance within, but sadly, I did not. I found them both incredibly dull, with very forgettable characters doing largely pointless things. Why is Henry James considered a literary great? I certainly can’t think of even one reason why. Both of those books went out onto my ‘please take: free books!’ box that I keep on my front step  – who doesn’t love free stuff? – and they were promptly picked up by someone who either enjoys James or is in for a disappointment. Let’s hope it’s the former. Another book I thought I probably wouldn’t like was Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go; I’ve seen the film so I knew the ‘twist’, and wondered whether, without that, I’d still find it a compelling read. I have to say that I didn’t. I enjoyed the writing and I was drawn into the story, but it lacked any real emotional gravitas for me and I finished it thinking that it was really rather forgettable, if well executed. It’s a shame, as The Remains of the Day is one of my all-time favourite books. This also went into the free box, and is now being enjoyed by someone else!

So what did I enjoy? Well, much to my surprise, I couldn’t put Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other down; I had thought it would be a bit too experimental to be my cup of tea, but I absolutely loved the almost free verse writing style and the lively, vibrant voices of each of the every different characters. Evaristo’s exploration of loosely connected groups of women’s lives over the twentieth and twenty-first centuries is so thought provoking, challenging and eye-opening, and gave me a glimpse into experiences and realities of women from different cultural and racial backgrounds to me that has been a real, and much needed, education. I particularly loved how Evaristo pairs characters, so that you can see one characters’ perspective of an event, and then how that event was perceived by the other person in the encounter, and she shows through this how easily we can miscommunicate and misunderstand one another, missing out on so much potential for connection and community as a result. I’m now very keen to read more of Evaristo’s writing; she was a worthy winner of the Booker Prize – more so than the terrible The Testaments – and I’m only sorry I hadn’t heard of her before. If you’ve been on the fence about trying Girl, Woman, Other, I’d really recommend that you give it a go.

Non-fiction wise, I loved Rutger Bregnan’s newly published Humankind: A Hopeful History of Humanity, which debunks the myths about the selfishness of humanity through looking at a range of experiments and real-life scenarios to show how we are inherently good. It is quite broad in scope and Bregnan is certainly more of a philosopher than a historian or social scientist, so there is a fair amount of cherry-picking and generalisation, but I found it a lovely, uplifting and inspiring read nonetheless, with plenty of fascinating and thought-provoking nuggets and a wonderful positivity. If we all spent less time moaning on social media and more time volunteering and getting involved in making our communities better places, then the world would be a much better place, and I can’t agree more with this outlook. Armchair activism is one of my greatest bugbears – ‘liking’ something doesn’t mean you’re actually doing anything about it – and my favourite book of the month evidences this perfectly in the life of the remarkable Gloria Steinem, whose autobiography, My Life on the Road, is just brilliant. Famous for her feminist activism, this book is not a traditional autobiography, but more a collection of thematic thoughts and reflections on her life, what drives her and what experiences have changed her and formed her thinking. She refers to herself as an ‘organiser’, and I loved her humility, her wisdom, and willingness to be challenged and changed by her experiences. She has spent most of her life travelling around America, advocating for equality and human rights causes, and her tales of who she has met on her travels, the friendships she has made, and the things she has learned on the way, are just amazing. I loved reading about her experiences in the 1960s and 70s, in the midst of the fight for the ERA in the US, and when she founded Ms magazine; I’ve just watched the HBO series Mrs America (which Steinem is not happy about for many reasons, though it is a very good series, I thought!) and it was so interesting to actually read about what really happened from Steinem’s perspective, and how she got involved and how the experience changed her. She comes across as such a positive, kind, passionate person, with the true journalistic spirit of being genuinely interested in other people, and a heart full of compassion and openness. I am in absolute awe that in her eighties, she is still on the road, still speaking out against injustice, and still inspiring women all over the world to stand up against discrimination. She is an amazing woman, and her words on life should be required reading. I know I’ll come back to this again and again.

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

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Further to my previous post on Penguin cover designs, Penguin have been producing some very beautifully designed, themed collections of books over the past few years., often under their ‘Vintage Classics’ imprint. They make for a gorgeous and very tempting display in a bookshop, and entice readers to pick up something they might not otherwise consider. For me, a lovely book acts as a moth to a flame, and in my post-lockdown state of cultural starvation, I was drawn helplessly to a Waterstones display of Japanese Vintage Classics once the bookshops reopened. Ever keen to read books from outside of the Western canon, I was intrigued by all of the choices, but decided to go with The Housekeeper and the Professor, due to its fascinating central concept of a woman trying to build a meaningful connection with a man whose memory only lasts for eighty minutes. I’m so glad I did, because it truly is a beautiful, poignant and incredibly affecting read; I gulped it all down in one go and had a wonderfully cathartic cry at the end.

The novel is narrated by the Housekeeper, whose name we never find out. A young single mother, she works hard cleaning people’s houses, and takes pride in doing a good job. Her employer, knowing she is exceptionally reliable, sends her one day to a new job, for a notoriously difficult client. A former maths professor who received traumatic brain injuries in a car accident some thirty years before, he can only remember anything in the present for eighty minutes at a time, though he can remember everything that happened to him up to the moment of his accident. He lives in a tumbledown cottage in the grounds of his sister in law’s house, and spends his days puzzling over maths challenges published in various journals. Every day the Housekeeper will have to reintroduce herself, and she will have to learn to adapt to the professor’s idiosyncratic and temperamental ways. No housekeepers have yet been able to last more than a week or so, but as soon as the narrator arrives, she sees that she will be able to stay the course. Polite, mild-mannered, and in love with the beauty of numbers, the Professor has retreated into the world of mathematics as a protection from his otherwise bewildering existence. His clothes are covered in safety-pinned notes, reminding him of things he would otherwise forget, the most poignant being ‘my memory only lasts for eighty minutes’. The Housekeeper initially focuses on making the cottage more comfortable for the Professor, and making sure he eats properly, but when she mentions her son one day, the Professor is outraged that he is at home alone after school, and insists he comes to join her until she has finished work. The Professor nicknames the little boy Root, as he says his head is shaped like the square root symbol, and reveals a tender affection for children in his loving treatment of the child. He helps him with his homework, sets him puzzles to do, and they share a love of baseball. Root encourages him to get his radio fixed, so they can listen to baseball games together, and the Professor flourishes in the young boy’s company. Even though every day their relationship must start anew, the love and care shown to him by the Housekeeper and Root gives the Professor a joy in the everyday that he had lost.

Together, the Housekeeper and Root try to give the Professor new experiences, such as eating in a restaurant and going to a baseball game, and find ever ingenious ways to get around his lack of memory, and lack of awareness that the world around him has changed. Gradually, they become a family unit, and Root grows up quickly with his new responsibility for ensuring the Professor is never distressed by any information that might reveal to him all he has missed in the thirty years since his memory was taken from him. Love and affection allow the Professor to blossom and enjoy the limitations of his life, and the Professor’s humility, gentleness and gift for teaching how numbers help to explain the miracles of the world around us, inspires both the Housekeeper and Root to see the value in their lives in a whole new way. This lovely story of the power of love to form connections across all sorts of divides is so enchanting, and is also the first book to make me think that actually, maths is beautiful, and I wish I’d had someone teach it to me like the Professor teaches it to Root! I really can’t recommend this enough, and the translation is excellent; Stephen Snyder has done a wonderful job. If, like me, you are in need of something to pick you up and make you feel more positive about the world at the moment, then The Housekeeper and the Professor is a perfect remedy.

Penguin by Design

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I’ve been enjoying looking through a few of my coffee table books lately; I’m very good at buying exhibition catalogues and art books, but as they’re not very portable and I rarely have much leisure to sit and peruse them at home, I’ve not cracked many of them open. Now I’m at home much more often than I used to be, it’s been a pleasure to while away an afternoon learning about something new and taking the time to look closely at the images they contain. One I have especially enjoyed is Penguin by Design by Phil Baines, which looks at the changing designs and typefaces of Penguin books since their inception in the 1930s. Most people know Penguin for their famous boldly coloured striped paperbacks, but as I discovered, there have been a huge range of imprints that have come and gone over the years, along with numerous attempts to rebrand and redesign under a changing leadership looking to move with the times. Some of these were more successful than others, and the 70s and 80s saw some particularly bad cover designs that moved away from the traditional simplicity of Penguin’s style in an attempt to keep up with the broadening competition in the paperback market. Baines’ selection of front cover illustrations shows some very cheesy 80s film tie-in covers as well as soft-focus photography that make some of their fiction aimed at women look like soft porn! It’s hard to tell from many of these later covers that they’re even Penguin books, and this dilution of the brand and corresponding drop in sales led to a return to its original roots in more recent years.

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I’ve always loved Penguin covers, and I have a large collection of Penguin paperbacks that cover a wide range of eras. I love to collect the older, orange and white and green and white striped fiction and crime fiction editions, but I also very much like the 1960s Penguin Modern Classics, with their whimsical line drawings and soft duck egg blue colour way. I hated the early 2000 change to shiny silver covers, and have replaced nearly all of mine with older editions where possible. More recently, they’ve returned to the softer palette and matte covers of the 1960s style Modern Classics, and they are beautiful; collector’s items of the future in the way their original predecessors have become. Even these recognisable covers, however, have had subtle changes over time, and I didn’t realise that in the early days of Penguin, the design and typeface wasn’t standardised and there could be many differences between editions. The Penguin symbol was neatened up over time, and experiments made with adding and taking away detail as new Design Directors came and went, eager to make their mark. After reading the section about the early days of Penguin, I went for a rummage amongst my shelves to see if I could find any examples of this more erratic approach, and I was surprised to find plenty. Take a look at these Penguins, pictured above, all published in 1946. The Penguin Books cartouche is the same on each one, but notice how the Penguin symbol changes shape, and how the one shilling price is italicised on two but not on the other. There is also inconsistent spacing between the letters in the titles and there is no standardisation of placement of the authors’ name and title within the central band; H.G.Wells’ name is far lower than Bowen’s and James’, for example.

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Now look at these three. Between the Acts and Tea with Mr Rochester both date from 1953; A Handful of Dust is dated to 1955. Can you spot the difference? Notice now that there’s a little orange line to separate the title and author, compared to the earlier editions above, but the size of the title and author’s name is still inconsistent. There is, however, a clear centrality to the author and title within the middle band compared to those earlier editions. But what changed between 1953 and 1955? Well, ‘Fiction’, in orange letters, is now gone from the sides of the white stripe, and the 2/- price has changed to 2/6. Subtle changes – and not ones I’d ever noticed before reading Penguin by Design!

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Moving on to the 1960s, look at these, arranged in publication order. The creation of the Penguin Modern Classics list led to a change in colour and design – and between 1964 and 1965, when Howards End and then Lord of the Flies were published, you can see how the design of the Modern Classic was simplified, with the title, author, Penguin branding and price all being moved to the top quarter of the page, and an image being allowed to dominate the lower half. I love how, in just the space of a year, the rather old-fashioned looking design of Howards End subtly changes into the sleek and modern design of Lord of the Flies, which is one of my absolute favourite Penguin covers. However, someone was busy in 1965, because the first cover in the image below, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, was also published in that year, and the duck egg blue background has disappeared, and the image is now in full colour rather than black and white. Maybe to fund the cost of all this change, the price has gone up rather steeply! Three years later, in 1968, someone’s been tinkering with the design again with Woolf’s Jacob’s Room – we’ve returned to the blue, but we’re sticking with the coloured image. The Penguin logo has been redrawn, and the price is now on the back. By 1975, a more striking black has been chosen as the background colour for Huxley’s Brave New World, but the layout is broadly the same as in 1968. Decimalisation has also happened, and Penguin Modern Classics now cost just 55p. Those were the days!

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Can you track the history of Penguin in your own book collection? Why not take a look and see what you’ve got buried on your shelves!

Travel: Hastings

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When Samuel Johnson said ‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’ he obviously hadn’t lived through a pandemic when everything that makes London worth living in is shut. I am officially tired of London. Tired of walking the same streets, of seeing the same sights, of listening to every single one of my neighbours taking the opportunity to use drills and hammers and lawnmowers constantly because now is obviously the perfect time to get all those little home improvements done. At the weekend, I’d had enough. The sun was shining, I texted a friend, and before I knew it, we were happily sitting on a train that was whizzing us out of London to the coast. East Sussex has a wonderful string of coastal towns and some absolutely stunning countryside filled with undulating, verdant fields and picture postcard villages that seem to exist outside of time. Away from the bustling seaside city of Brighton, which I hate with a passion and which is most people’s only experience of East Sussex, there is so much to explore, and my seaside town of choice is always Hastings. An hour and 45 minutes away from London on the train, it’s very much a place of two halves; the rather seedy, run-down side by the station, which is filled with crumbling Victorian and Georgian architecture, and an uninspiring shopping centre, and the Old Town, which is a gorgeous maze of streets zig-zagging up the cliffs, where there are the most beautiful historic houses with breathtaking views down to the sea, and a marvellous array of independent shops, cafes and restaurants.

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Hastings was a very popular nineteenth century resort, evidenced in the beautiful, if crumbling, seafront promenades of Georgian and Victorian terraces with their charming wrought iron balconies and verandas, the original lifts that take you up to the top of the cliffs for bracing walks and the beautiful landscaped public parks filled with palm trees and colourful flowers. Much of the architecture has now seen better days due to the declining fortunes of the British holiday industry in the twentieth century, but there is still so much charm here to enjoy. The pebble beach is expansive and is towered over by the impressive cliffs that dominate England’s south coast. There is still a lively fishing industry here, and the original black-tarred nineteenth century fisherman’s huts still stand, and have been made protected monuments. Around a decade ago, Hastings Contemporary, a contemporary art gallery, was built on the seafront, and offers a fantastic cultural space to the community (sadly still closed). The Old Town has been transformed, with many independent shops and boutiques opening in recent years, selling locally made products, art work and all manner of lovely antiques and interior design goodies. Hastings has become increasingly popular with families and creative types priced out of London and looking for a better quality of life, and this has brought new life to the town. It’s an exciting place to be.

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It was such a joy to get out of London for the day and breathe in fresh, salty sea air. I felt the stress and worry I have been feeling melt away as I looked out at the sea and felt its refreshing cold water run between my toes. It was a wonderful holiday from reality to be able to wander through the beautiful, gaily painted, palm-treed little lanes of the Old Town, seeing little glimpses of the sea between gaps in the houses as we climbed ever higher. We stuffed ourselves with delicious fish and chips in Maggie’s at our table that overlooked the sea, enjoyed browsing the shops and treating ourselves to some little pick-me-up goodies (there is a wonderful independent book shop in the Old Town called Hare and Hawthorn, which is beautifully laid out, has an excellent selection of books for all ages and interests –  including a whole display of Persephones! – a must visit) and had yummy coffee and cake from Judges while we wandered along the seafront. We strolled through the pretty, expansive Alexandra Park and admired the many streets of lovely houses in the St Leonard’s area of the town. All in all, it was a marvellous day out, and we really had to tear ourselves away to get our train back to London. It was just what I needed – and as I write, with the background noise of drilling from my neighbour’s house slowly driving me mad,  I rather wish I had stayed for a few days!

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Reading from my shelves: June

Books started: 14

Books finished: 8

Books abandoned: 2

Books kept on the shelf: 5

June. Half way through the year. It doesn’t seem possible, somehow. Life continues in a sort of semi-suspended animation; freedom is returning, but with so many restrictions that much of the freedoms don’t feel particularly like freedoms just yet. It is a marker of the smallness of my world at the moment that my highlight of the month was being able to go to a bookshop again. The first day non essential shops reopened, I went skipping off down to my local high street here in Islington, full of excitement at being able to wander at my leisure amongst the shelves of treasure once more. I became rather anxious as I walked through the main shopping area and saw the queues outside the sports shop and H&M; would I have to wait for ages to get into Waterstones? Well, even here in intellectual North London, I needn’t have worried; evidently people were far more interested in buying trainers than books (not necessarily a bad thing!) and I was able to waltz right on in to a practically empty shop.  I was delighted to find the usual enthusiastic and friendly staff, who were keen to reassure everyone that they could do exactly as they liked – pick books up, flick through them, ask staff for help and recommendations and so on – as long as we put anything we’d picked up and decided we didn’t want on a special trolley so it could be taken off for quarantine at the end of the day.  I had a wonderful time wandering about and feeling almost like life was normal, and as I strolled out into the sunshine with my bag of new books, I felt a glimmer of hope that all of this nightmare was coming to an end, at last.

For most of June, the weather was gloriously mediterranean; endless sunshine, cloudless skies, hot, bright days and bleached, balmy evenings. Every spare moment I spent outside, and I spent many an evening with a glass of something nice on my balcony, catching the last rays of sun with a book. I slowly became a pleasant shade of bronze, and people kept commenting that I looked like I had been on holiday. And it really did feel rather like one; very far from my usual experience of June, which is usually mired in the stress of getting my students through their public exams and the frantic, frenetic pace of finishing the school year. It’s been lovely to not have to worry about all that for a change, I must admit. As I write, it’s the beginning of July, and of course it’s raining, and has been for the last week, because I now actually am on my summer holiday, and this is the way things always go.

But enough about the weather, and back to the books. What did I read in June?

I decided to tackle some of my unread tomes on the Victorians, which I bought in abundance when doing my MA in Victorian Studies a couple of years ago, and obviously never actually had time to read. Judith Flanders’ The Victorian House was very popular when it came out well over a decade ago, and for good reason, because it’s absolutely fascinating. I can’t think why I haven’t read it before. It takes a novel approach to social history by exploring what everyday life was like for middle class Victorians through the different rooms in their houses. She looks at the construction of houses in terms of their decoration and furnishing, architecture and layout, as well as the functions of each of the rooms and what this can tell us about mid to late Victorian life. I loved learning so many little intriguing details that you just don’t come across elsewhere, such as how it was a common afternoon activity for women and girls to cut up newspapers and letters to be made into little stringed packets of toilet paper before actual toilet paper was invented; that carpets were so expensive that when they were considered too worn for public spaces downstairs, they were cut up and refitted to bedrooms, where they would be out of sight to visitors; that most middle class people ate a diet during the week that entirely consisted of inventive leftovers refashioned from their Sunday joint of meat. I also found the details on how interior design fashions changed over time fascinating; images of festooned and frilled mantelpieces and tables, with every surface draped in fabric and ribbons and lace, shows how an interior would have looked in the 1870s, for example, and as the century wore on, the dark and heavy decoration schemes of the earlier years lightened as electricity began to replace gas and rooms became brighter and cleaner without all of the fumes and smoke associated with candles and gas lighting to dirty the walls. Flanders writes with a lovely wry tone and a keen eye for detail, and I sped through the book in a couple of days; it’s a wonderful piece of social history and I highly recommend it!

One of the sources frequently quoted in The Victorian House is The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith, which originated as a satirical series of articles in Punch magazine about a bank clerk, Charles Pooter, and the trials and tribulations of his suburban middle class life. I’ve had it on my shelf for years, and the extracts quoted in The Victorian House were so funny that I picked it up immediately after finishing. Charles and his wife Carrie live in a new semi detached house in North London, and when Charles isn’t trying to impress his boss and sort out the cheeky young clerks at his office in Holborn, he’s busy making his house a home by indulging in a little DIY. Charles and Carrie take great pride in their home, and are keen to try all the latest in decorative trends. They also have great ambitions for their lazy, wayward son, Lupin, whose arrival mid way through the book causes them great embarrassment due to his failure to apply himself at work and poor choice of female companions. Both Charles and Carrie are very endearing, and their small hopes and ambitions – a promotion at work, an invitation to a prestigious party – and everyday disappointments feel remarkably current for a novel written over one hundred years ago. Judith Flanders was particularly interested in The Diary of a Nobody for its focus on the domestic interior and domestic life, and it is indeed excellent for this, but it’s also a hilarious exploration of the many ridiculous, wonderful and annoying elements of everyday existence, and I loved every minute. The original illustrations from Punch are also brilliant, too!

Zipping forward in time to the present day, my friend lent me a copy My Friend Anna, which is the true story of how Anna Delvey, a middle class Russian twenty something, managed to fool a whole host of social climbing New Yorkers that she was a billionaire heiress. Delvey is now in prison, and the book is written by her so-called friend Rachel Williams, who was working for Vogue when she met Anna through mutual ‘friends’ and somehow ended up becoming her closest confidante. Rachel was having a great time benefiting from her friendship – free lunches, free designer clothes, free personal training workouts, free holidays, access to amazing hotels and clubs –  until everything unravelled on an all-expenses paid trip to one of the most expensive hotels in Morocco, when Anna’s credit card got declined and Rachel was forced to put the $60,000 bill on her own card. Over the next few months, Anna evaded paying her back, despite constant promises that she would, and gradually Rachel began to realise that Anna wasn’t all she said she was, and that she wasn’t the only one who had been duped. This book is just the best kind of wonderfully trashy nonsense. Rachel Williams is a truly loathsome individual who represents everything that is wrong with our current society. Entitled, selfish and shallow, she attempts to present herself as a sweet family-loving Southern girl who became a victim of Anna Delvey because she was just so gosh-darned nice, but the reality is, Rachel became friends with her because she enjoyed the perks of the friendship and the lifestyle Anna gave her access to. The worst part of the whole affair is that Rachel shopped Anna (clearly a very mentally unwell individual, who Rachel tries to demonise without any attempt to understand what might have made her want to live a double life) to the FBI because she wanted her money back – the stress of the debt apparently was ruining her life, giving her panic attacks, etc, etc – and yet she made no attempt to economise – she refused the offer of  sharing an apartment with a friend so that she could stop paying her $2k per month rent, she kept going out to expensive restaurants for brunches and dinners (during which she couldn’t stop crying about her debt), she kept flying off all over the US for friends’ baby showers and honeymoons, etc – making it very clear that she knew she would never have to pay that money back in the first place. Of course she wouldn’t – with wealthy parents (her father was running for Congress at the time), she was never really going to be held responsible for that debt, and her attempts to portray how she suffered – despite not having to make any material changes to her life – are incredibly insensitive to anyone who has ever experienced genuine crippling, life destroying debt they don’t have anyone to call upon to help them pay back. Rachel is a privileged young woman, living like many people do in New York – I saw it for myself when I lived there – a life consisting of being seen in all the right places, with all the right people, that leads to shallow ‘friendships’ and an expenditure that far outstrips their means – and when everything goes wrong, they don’t change their lifestyle, they just make a quick phone call to Daddy. Rachel Williams’ remarkable lack of self-awareness is the most entertaining part of this unintentionally ironic portrayal of the shallow emptiness behind a life that values people solely according to their social and financial status. In my opinion, Rachel deserved everything she got – though, the most tragic thing about the whole affair is that she has been amply rewarded – not only has she got this book, but also a deal for a Netflix series. I suppose that says everything about the world in which we live!