Love and Fame by Susie Boyt Virago June 7th 2018
Susie Boyt’s sixth novel is the story of the first year of a marriage. Eve a nervous young actress from a powerful theatrical dynasty has found herself married to an international expert on anxiety called Jim. Could it work? Should it work? Must the show always go on? This is a highly-strung comedy about love, fame, grief, showbusiness and the depths of the gutter press. Its witty and sincere tone – familiar to fans of Susie’s newspaper column – will delight and unnerve in equal measure.
I couldn’t write a review for Love and Fame straightaway, it was a novel I needed to distance myself from to think about what I had read. It was one of those novels that you had to really think about, its themes often complex, its many layers required a slow unpicking to get to the heart of the novel.
The main protagonists, Eve and Rebecca were both women who struggled with everyday life. Rebecca still felt acute grief from the death of her mother when she was very young and was totally reliant on her sister, Beach. For some reason I found Rebecca slightly annoying, sometimes superficial and self absorbed, and her utter reliance on her sister frustrating. I almost felt she was missing out on making the most of her life and its opportunities. I wanted her sister to cut the apron strings to be tough with her, to make her realise that yes, her mother is dead but she would want her to get on with her life. It was as if Beach needed Rebecca as much as Rebecca needed Beach, that they couldn’t cope without each.
Eve was quite different in the way that she dealt with the death of her father and her ensuing grief. Eve enveloped herself in her family home, as though that was the only way she could still feel close to him, all to the detriment of her marriage. Yet with Eve I always felt there was hope that somehow she would emerge from her grief and get on with her life.
What impressed most was Boyt’s narrative, the way in which it was layered, the hidden meanings that had to be read between the lines. You knew that Eve and Rebecca both had eating disorders yet Boyt never confirmed it, you assumed as you immersed yourselves in their stories.
Grief was so wonderfully explored, the differing ways it can affect people, the methods we might use to deal with it, how somehow it never leaves us, an ever present condition that can engulf at any moment.
It was not just Rebeccca and Eve who suffered it was also the people around them, the way they dealt with their relationships, their family. I felt sorry for Eve’s husband as he tried to offer support, to do the right thing, yet felt rejected and totally helpless. Boyt’s portrayal of Eve’s Mum, Jean and her grief, was just wonderful, the writing poignant and emotive, brilliantly getting across Jean’s heartbreak and devastation.
Love and Fame was a novel that certainly put me through the emotional ringer, yet it was not all doom and gloom, there were moments of lightness and indeed hope.
It was a novel that took me by surprise, that immersed me in its skilful narrative and its fantastically realised character and I shall be hunting down some more novels by Susie Boyt in the near future.
I would like to thank Virago for a copy of Love and Fame to read and review and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
The daughter of Suzy Boyt and artist Lucian Freud, and great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud. Susie Boyt was educated at Channing and at Camden School for Girls and read English at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, graduating in 1992. Working variously at a PR agency, and a literary agency, she completed her first novel, The Normal Man, which was published in 1995 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. She returned to university to do a Masters in Anglo American Literary Relations at University College London studying the works of Henry James and the poet John Berryman.
To date she has published six novels. In 2008, she published My Judy Garland Life, a layering of biography, hero-worship and self-help. Her journalism includes an ongoing column in the weekend Life & Arts section of the Financial Times. She is married to Tom Astor, a film producer. They live with their two daughters in London.