This is probably the weirdest book I have read so far, and even though I was somewhat prepared for this story – having been inspired to read it by the review of fellow blogger Tammy – still it turned out to be a very odd experience. Intriguing, but definitely odd…
The story is set in a somewhat dystopian version of our world, one that’s divided between normal, everyday people – although they are defined as ‘unfashionable’ or, worse, ’the uglies’ – and the glitterati, the fashionable elite whose only occupation and goal is that of looking fabulous (a word that recurs quite often in the book) by matching outfits and colors and appearance to the various days of the week, or situations or social gatherings. We observe this world through the eyes of Simone as he spends his days in what looks like a constant search for perfection, excellence, fabulousness.
He and his wife Georgie are among the elite of this rarefied crowd, and Simone seems to have a knack for being a trend setter, but one day the “bubble” bursts as an inconvenient nosebleed mars his outfit of the evening: what might have been a simple – but fashionably devastating – accident turns into a new fashion statement when fellow glitterati Justine adopts it as her own, thus robbing Simone of the glamour of discovery. The Battle of Fashions between the two of them starts a no-holds-barred feud which includes the wearing of armor (fashionable, of course) and some dirty tricks. Simone and Georgie’s life is further complicated by the discovery of a child in their garden, a creature they literally don’t know how to handle, and a social downfall that will, however, change their perspective on life – and fashion.
Glitterati is a somewhat fun book blending a ferocious social commentary, which often veers into the grotesque, with a weird dystopian society that made me think of what The Hunger Games would have been if that story had been about fashion rather than survival – and a few of the outfit descriptions you can find in the book made me think of some Hunger Games characters as they were portrayed in the movies (think about Effie Trinket and you will see what I mean). But the story is not all fun and foolishness, because there are some very dark elements in there: for example we learn that the Glitterati can have unpleasant memories removed, so that they can’t mar the perfection of one’s style and appearance by unexpectedly surfacing and upsetting their psychological balance. Even an event as mundane as a glass cut on the hand can be removed from memory, although the scene about the wound treatment is something that fell quickly (and quite inexplicably) into horror territory, and which made me wonder about the hows and whys of this bizarre world.
And here is where I was slightly disappointed by Glitterati, because as fun and entertaining the book is, there is no explanation about how this world came to be or what caused this almost unbelievable social divide in which the elite of the Glitterati does not need to work or to have money for their needs and seems to exist only to be admired. Granted, the novel is indeed a compulsive and absorbing read, but once you reach the end the questions start to pop up in your mind, making you challenge the basis of the whole scenario – and you find out that the story is sorely lacking in that sense, particularly when you get a fleeting glimpse of the true role of the elite during an ominous conversation between Simone and his lawyer, but nothing follows that tantalizing glimpse.
Still, it’s impossible not be become invested in Simone’s (and Georgie’s) journey as it turns from a never-ending run of dressing, partying and consumption of drugs into something more… human (for want of a better word): their relationship, as stylized and formal as it appears from their dialogue and interactions, speaks of a deeply rooted and genuine affection, turning them into what feels like a team, while the rest of the characters appear as if they all live in a self-centered fog of narcissistic admiration. The changes they undergo – Simone in particular – develop in an organic, believable way and even though the ending seems a bit hurried, there is a glimmer of hope for a future in which they might be a little more real and grounded as people and not as the posing mannequins they have been at the beginning.
If you are looking for a story that’s way out of your comfort zone, but which will both entertain and horrify you, Glitterati might very well be the right choice: it might lack a bit of depth, but it will keep you enthralled from start to finish. And that’s not a bad thing at all…