Monday, October 30, 2017

Review: The It Girls by Karen Harper

Although we may think that our time has a strange and unprecedented obsession with the people we’ve made famous, we are actually just following in the footsteps of previous decades and centuries. Every age has had its celebrities and its obsessions. Karen Harper’s newest novel, The It Girls, explores two famous women, real life sisters, who were the epitome of that indefinable “it.”

Lucy and Nellie Sutherland wanted nothing so much as to be as famous as their own celebrity crush, Lillie Langtry. Lucy wanted to design clothing and Nellie wanted to be a celebrated author. In this process of achieving their goals, each of these determined women weathered unhappy marriages, hardship, poverty, and obsessive critical attention that wasn’t always positive. Lucy was the designer behind the romantic, floaty, and highly coveted designs under the label Lucile and Nellie became Elinor Glyn, the author behind quite scandalous, very popular romantic fiction. Both sisters were clearly creative, driven to succeed, and quite good at marketing themselves and their brands. In their early years they assisted each other but as they each became more successful, there was a widening streak of jealousy over the other’s success that changed and harmed their relationship periodically.

The lives and accomplishments of Lucile, Lady Duff-Gordon, and Elinor Glyn were fascinating but they might have been better served by having separate books about them. Although they were sisters, their relationship to each other did not seem to be the focus of the book, instead it centered on their rise to fame and the obstacles they overcame to live celebrated lives. The beginning of the book with the two as teenagers in Jersey is rather awkward as they have a conversation with each other recounting their early years. Since they both already know their own history, it is a strange choice to give the reader their backstory this way. And after the women’s younger years, their lives diverge quite a bit, the bulk of their contact being at a distance. They do come together to support each other in hardship but mostly their stories are very separate. The narrative jumps back and forth between the sisters, sometimes at concurrent points but sometimes in different years or months. These switches back and forth aren’t as seamless as might be hoped, perhaps because the parallels in the sisters’ lives aren’t terribly clear. Despite the coming together at the end, which had a completely different feel than the preceding story, this felt more like two books living uneasily together under one cover. Even so it might spark readers to find more on Elinor and Lucile, two women who lived interesting public lives in spite of the challenges in their personal lives.

For more information about Karen Harper and the book, check out her website or like her on Facebook. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.
Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the Harper Collins for sending me a copy of this book to review.

1 comment:

I have had to disable the anonymous comment option to cut down on the spam and I apologize to those of you for whom this makes commenting a chore. I hope you'll still opt to leave me your thoughts. I love to hear what you think, especially so I know I'm not just whistling into the wind here at my computer.

Popular Posts