Every month we provide you with a pick of four books, each relating to a particular strand of our monthly theme. Read on for our suggested reading, linking into this month’s theme of PRIVILEGE.
Blow by Blow by Detmar Blow
Aristocracy; Fashion; Power
From her aristocratic beginnings and throughout her life in fashion, Isabella Blow was perennially surrounded by wealth – yet was herself plagued by money problems. This is the tragic story of a modern-day muse (to Alexander McQueen, Philip Treacy and more) as told by her husband. Weaving the many strands of a troubled woman’s life into a compelling narrative, this heartbreaking story is simply told, and provides illuminating insights into the world of fashion along the way.
‘Issie has the distinction of submitting the highest expenses claim in the history of Conde Nast for a single item, “Just £50,000 for a very small ruin which was really a must.” It went unpaid.’
The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver
Choices; Love; Decisions
We are lucky enough to have the power to choose what we want in life, yet those decisions affect not only ourselves, but also the people around us. The Post-Birthday World focuses on one such decision for Irina and the two parallel lives that unfold from the result of her decision. It is a wonderfully in-depth examination of how the smallest choices can make the biggest difference. In a world of decisions, how can we ever know which is the right one?
‘You are awarded a discrete number of mornings, and are well advised to savor every single awakening that isn’t marred by arthritis or Alzheimer’s.’
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Education; Elitism; Knowledge
Yes, it appears on all must-read lists, but how could we leave it off this one? Reading The Secret History you are initiated into an elite circle of clever, eccentric misfits, who consider themselves not only of higher intelligence to their classmates at Hampden College, but of a higher state of being. This, it turns out, is a dangerous thing. We are told in the prologue by Gatsby-esque narrator Richard that the group has committed a terrible crime, murdering one of their own. And from there the story of this modern classic begins . . .
‘I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell.‘
Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill
Hierarchy; Beauty; Value
Only Ever Yours transports you to a world where young girls are bred, rather than born, and grow up in a society that has stripped them of all privileges. Their only distinguishing factor, the only thing that will ever increase their worth, is their beauty – which is most certainly not in the eye of the beholder: in this world there are standards to be met. Set in the private girls’ school of your nightmares, it’s technically sci-fi, but the world-building is deliberately simplistic, giving the story room for the unremitting satire that makes it so affecting.
‘Remember, you may be perfectly designed, but there is always room for improvement.’