You pay attention because you have to pay attention. The world isn’t going to unfurl itself for you. You have to pry it open.
College, that place that draws people from all walks of life together, broadens your world view, lets the priveledged and working class rub shoulders and be better for it, this is the meeting place for one hell of a story. For Violet Trapp it was her intelligence and hard work, not her parent’s money that lands her at the private college. There isn’t an inkling of homesickness in her body, not for the mother who, while poor, was ‘the worst sort of snob’ and a violent one at that. Violet wants nothing more than to forget her family entirely, to cut her roots. Vilolet, a 19 year old girl whose support and encouragement came from her teacher rather than her own parents. She will invent a world where she can be a success, join the ranks of the wealthy. Her first door into the world of privilege opens when she becomes roommates with Stella Bradley, after saving her. Beautiful, outspoken, indifferent because money allows such things, there are ‘unseen parts’ that over time Violet is privy to. Violet’s first time with the Bradley family is during Thanksgiving and before long she may as well be one of them. She becomes, she flourishes once Stella enters her life. Knowing this family, blending in with them, becoming one of them is a ‘golden opportunity’ and our Violett is always paying attention, it’s what people without options must do.
Their friendship transcends college, after graduation Violet moves to New York to work for cable news. They are grueling days, thankless, but at least she can afford to be there and in a beautiful apartment with a doorman at that all because of the ‘arrangement’ with Stella’s mother. Stella, doing Stella things ‘wherever the wind takes her’, urges her to just live there, of course mother Anne expects pay, to make it official only. Even so it’s a deal other’s would kill for. In the vacuum of Stella’s absence, Violett works her way up the ladder, begins a flirtation with her co-worker Jamie and waits for her friend to show. Stella’s ‘hot temper and impulsive spirit’ makes for disappearing acts and blunt cruelties now and then, like reminding Violett where she came from, more as a joke of course. Her impulsiveness and vanishing can come in handy though too, at least for Violet. The relationship works with Stella as top dog, they have their roles to play, so when Violet becomes the youngest associate producer, it’s not such a shock that Stella decides to use her connections to get into the news.
When you’re beautiful and beguiling, and wealth is your superpower, any mistakes you make is ‘charming’. Stella has such charm in buckets and buckets, their roles are the ‘poor girl’ and ‘the rich girl’ and often Violet seems more like a stray the Bradley’s took in, or a pet project. Despite all her hard work, Stella surpasses her, easing into everything she wants without the sweat, blood and tears Violet must squeeze out of her worn out self. Stella’s fast rise in the business is as effortless as her beauty. Stella is demanding and often tyrannical, and when you live on the charity of the wealthy, friend or not, ‘like a daughter’ or not, you will be at the constant beck and call, a permanent audience to their dramas.
“The meager territory I had claimed as my own, the little patch of land free from Stella Bradley’s shadow- it was gone, invaded, colonized.” From here, the novel descends into darker more treacherous water and only one “It Girl” can exist. It gets twisted, and both are guilty of heinous behaviors, psychological warfare until one of them snaps.
This reminds me a lot of The Talented Mr. Ripley, not entirely, but similar dynamics. Who the hell do you root for here? Both are deceptive and selfish, though it’s easier to understand where Violet is coming from, she is relatable. What is it about some female friendships, that rivalry, the jealousies that often simmer beneath the surface of things? Envy that buzzes around like filthy flies? Of course most friendships of this vein end in childish tiffs, not crimes. Why do some people always have to demand what’s yours, even when they don’t really want it? Stella likes Violet in her place where she is insecure, uncultured, needy and dependant on her whims. She isn’t about to let Violet stand on her own two feet, no way, not when her benevolence, her family’s charity helped mold her. Stella isn’t as unobservant as Violet thought, and much more conniving but has underestimated just how badly Violet wants her territory back! Why should Stella always win, why should she be destined for great things wrapped up in her cloud of arrogance and indifference, it means nothing to her, she doesn’t earn anything! So we spiral…
This is a disturbing novel, especially once you get to part 3. Definitley add this novel to your May reading list!
Publication Date: May 21, 2019
Little, Brown and Company