The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp by Sarra Manning



HarperCollins, September 2018

★★★★★

She was a sweet girl, but you got sick of sweet after a while; started to crave something tart, acidic…

It probably won’t surprise you from the title, but this is a modern retelling of ‘Vanity Fair’ and a rather excellent retelling it is, too. Fresh from the Big Brother house, Becky is keen to keep her star burning brightly, chasing riches, status and fame.

Of course, it is not only Becky who receives an updated storyline and the changes are genius - George a Tory MP, the Pitt Crawleys as an acting family (with the dowager aunt playing the part of, well, the dowager aunt on a fictionalised Downton Abbey) and Jos Sedley, quite hilariously, as a bulked up owner of a power balls company, which leads to many double entendres throughout. No one is safe from the cutting satire and, as with the original, Manning lets neither the characters nor society come off looking good.

Becky is the most deliciously unlikeable character or, rather, she should be seeing as she lies and schemes and flirts her way through the book to get what she wants, and is often quite cruel along the way. But, it is hard not to cheer for her and, in some ways, to like her. She is, at the very least, upfront about what she wants.

I am a sucker for a modern retelling, especially when it is done with a spirit of fun, and this is a very, very fun book.

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided free of charge from the publisher for review purposes. This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click through and purchase something, I'll receive a very small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for reading and keeping Readers Gonna Read running! 

Almost Love by Louise O'Neill

almost love

Quercus, March 2018

★★★★

Love was holding your breath until they texted you. Love was waiting for them to decide that you're good enough.

Sarah should be happy; she has a loving boyfriend, a lovely house, a job she loves and the means to pursue her art. But she’s haunted by an affair with Matthew which consumed her whole life; she loved him, even though he was twenty years older than her and only ever wanted to see her in secret. She lost friends, the respect of her father and her job, all because of her obsession… so why can’t she forget him? And love is supposed to hurt, isn’t it?

I am a big fan of Louise O’Neill’s cutting feminist fiction; she’s not afraid to create dark, complicated characters and to let them hurt and fail and fuck up. Sarah is not particularly likeable, and her decisions are, at times, maddening, but as you follow along with her disastrous affair and the way it sends shockwaves through her life, you’ll find yourself hoping for the best for Sarah, anyway. I think a lot of the power of this book is in the fact that Sarah is quite unlikeable, but you can still see the ways in which unhealthy narratives about love and women have worked their way into her brain, and the ways in which Matthew abuses his power and privilege over her to get what he wants.

It’s not my favourite Louise O’Neill book - I think Only Ever Yours is burned into my soul - but she is very good at what she does, and this book is almost as addictive as the affair it depicts. Just don’t hold out too much hope for a happy ending…


Recommendations

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided free of charge from the publisher for review purposes. This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click through and purchase something, I'll receive a very small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for reading and keeping Readers Gonna Read running!