What’s it all about?:
A funny, satirical, sharp and honest look at modern British life from the perspective of two young women. The launch of an exciting new voice from Virago Press.
Emma Derringer is an assistant at a branding agency in London. Each morning she arrives at the office, types in her password (Fresh_He11) and shoves her jacket under her desk (DEAR ALL, Please keep your coats and bags out of sight and NOT on your chairs as they are unsightly. Thx). Most days Emma wears a mask of indifference that disguises either her boredom, her hangover or both. When her overbearing boss isn’t looking she pursues her career as a writer, sending articles, posting blogs and trying to get noticed for her talent, instead of mistakes on her PowerPoint presentations.
Clementine Twist arrives home from a stint in New York with a hefty overdraft, a crushed heart and a waning confidence in her budding career as a screenwriter. She moves in with her mum, gets a job in bar and spends her days composing emails to agents, producers and anyone who might help her onto the slippery ladder of the film industry.
As their 30s loom and the freedom and fun of their 20s gives way to the adult pressures of job satisfaction and perceived success, Emma and Clem realise it’s time to ramp up their efforts, and think about quitting the day job.
Amid life’s larger questions Emma and Clem have to answer to the daily challenges of big city life on a little budget, as well as inane questions about getting their nails did from their mutual frenemy Yasmin, the phone to increasingly technophobic parents and emails to ever more rejection letters.
Living the Dream is a razor-sharp comic novel of office life, friendship and the search for meaning.
What did I think?:
First of all happy publication day to author Lauren Berry with her debut novel, Living The Dream! Secondly, a huge thank you to Grace Vincent and Little, Brown publishers for allowing me to read a copy in exchange for an honest review. To be perfectly honest, I don’t normally read books within this genre. However, when Grace contacted me and I read the synopsis I was in the mood for something light-hearted and funny so I was happy to give it a shot and was intrigued to read a story about a group of twenty-somethings living the hectic, London life attempting to balance work, friendship, having fun and falling in love.
Our story focuses on two girls of a similar age and personality, best friends Emma and Clem (the latter of whom just happens to have a fantastic name – Clementine Twist). They both appear to have what the other one desires, Emma has the stable job in advertising with a steady, decent wage that enables her to pay her rent on the flat she shares with a friend, go out occasionally and treat herself from time to time if she wanted. Clem on the other hand has just come back from New York where she was studying film, getting involved and then breaking up with an idiot actor boyfriend and trying her hand at writing her own script, still to be commissioned as she touches back down on Earth (aka London).
Both girls are miserable. Emma is desperately unhappy at her job and wants to jack it all in to pursue her real dream – writing, but is terrified of making that big jump and losing that guaranteed wage that she has become accustomed to. Clem is attempting to set up meetings with directors and people interested in her script with varying degrees of success but is having to live with her mum and stepfather and is completely broke, forced to take up bar work just to get some money coming in. Living The Dream looks at both girls lives as they attempt to navigate the scary adult world of budgeting and chasing your dream whilst realising the grown up experience might not be everything it’s cracked up to be.
As I mentioned before, this isn’t the genre I would normally go for and, as a result, I didn’t fall head over heels in love with this novel. However, it does have some terrific things going for it and in the right pair of hands would be highly enjoyable I’m sure. I did sympathise with the plight of both characters and enjoyed the strong friendship between the two although also appreciated that the author wasn’t afraid to take the story to darker places on occasion, something I wasn’t expecting. I also liked that this novel didn’t harp on about “finding the right man,” which was a breath of fresh air in this genre and focused more on the interactions between friends than the dynamics of male-female relationships. I don’t really want to criticise the novel as I believe it’s purely a personal preference why I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had hoped to and there are no stand out writing flaws or character quirks that I out and out disliked. So even though I may have not been the perfect reader for this story, I can still appreciate the positive aspects of the narrative and am certain there is a strong readership out there who will love it.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):