Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

025.JPG

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

I read the The American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld on my holiday last year and the tone and style of the novel was so realistic that I was eager to see what else she had to offer.

Prep was one of the books on my Christmas list and I am a sucker for any teenage school drama – hello 90210 and Gossip Girl.

Prep is set in the prestigious Ault boarding school in the US, full of rich daddy’s girls and ‘banker boys’.

Lee, is the complete anthesis to her rich and smart peers. She decides to apply to Ault based on the notion that boarding schools are exactly like those from movies (and also because her working class parents are an embarrassment to her).

Lee gets into Ault on a scholarship and has to work exceptionally hard to achieve the result of their peers. Consumed by self-doubt, Lee is painfully shy and self-conscious and therefore feels alienated by those in her year who speak of boys and fashion.

One of her pivotal moments comes when Ault has its annual holiday and while her peers all go into town or to the mall in bug groups, she decides to go by herself and get a piercing but passes out in the process. Who should save her but the dashing Cross Sugarman – the guy who every girl fancies. They have lunch together and go the cinema and bar a little flirting they don’t speak to each other for a few years but the seed is set and Lee becomes obsessed with him.

In the interim Lee befriends Martha who’s mother is rather wealthy and takes them out for posh dinners. During annual parents weekend Lee is embarrassed when her parents remark on trivial thigs about Ault which results in a huge argument with her father over her brattish, teenage behaviour.

026

Lee struggles with her grades and has to have a tutor to get her through. Her teachers realise her potential but she is too full of self-doubt to see her potential and worth.

Lee’s dreams eventually come true when Cross comes into hers and Martha’s room one night and climbs into bed with her. The two then embark on a friends with benefits relationship for months but Lee fails to see that he’s using her (we’ve all been there) and moves onto someone else.

But the nail in Lee’s time at Ault comes when she’s nominated to speak to a national paper about boarding schools and whether stereotypes hold true. Lee’s naivety shows when she launches into a rant about Ault’s pupils and trusts the journalist not to put it in the article. Of course she does and Lee’s legacy at Ault is her part in the awful article.

Lee’s negativity and self doubt at times is often frustrating. Her peers want to be friends with her but she pushes them away became she feels she’s not their equal so at times is her own worst enemy.

I really enjoyed the novel but did feel that I was waiting for that big event to happen which never came but on the whole I did enjoy the novel and will develop further into Sittenfeld’s back catalogue.

Advertisements

The Girl Before by J P Delaney

029.JPG

 

The Girl Before by J P Delaney

At the moment I am hooked on psychological thrillers. Ever since Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train I’ve been on the look out for the next thriller and I think I’ve found it in The Girl Before by JP Delaney, a pseudonym of a well-known author.

Helped by the fact that I was annual leave when I read the book, I finished it in three days. The novel is due to be turned into a film and when reading it you know why as it lends itself perfectly to the big screen.

Switching between ‘Then:Emma’ and ‘Now:Jane’, Delaney describes how a current tenant in a futurist flat become obsessed with the former resident.

032.JPG

Emma is a broken woman who needs nurturing, supposedly. She has a loving Simon who will do anything for her. One day their house is broken into whilst Emma is there and she is raped. Wanting a change and to forget the ordeal they look for somewhere new to live. The letting agent suggests One Folgate Street, a minimalist space which comes with a strict landlord and an even stricter set of rules. They must decide on only a few personal possessions they can take, there is to be no waste bins, nothing on the floors and no newspapers. The couple pass the rigorous test and meet the landlord, and architect who designed the place, Edward Monkford.

Emma learns that Edward’s wife and son died during the construction of the building and his other ventures have involed fatal accidents. One Folgate Street is hailed as such a great design of architectural genius that students come to the building to look on its wonder. Emma and Edward gradually get closer and begin an affair, Simon is subsequently dumped however he takes the break up extremely bad.

030.JPG

Emma is a damaged soul and we learn that she lied about being raped and in fact encouraged the intruder to film their sexual encounter. She also has sex with her best friend’s husband but says he was the instigator. Edward molds Emma into his vision of a perfect woman. Life is much better when there is organisation and rules he says but he takes this to the extreme. And once he finds out that Emma has lied he breaks up with her.  Jane, who takes over the tenancy some years later learns that Emma dies at One Folgate Street.

033.JPG
Jane is also a fragile being. Seeking a new start after giving birth to a still born she moves into One Folgate Street after passing Edward’s tenancy assessment. She too begins a relationship with Edward and Delaney describes the parallels and similarities between Emma and Jane’s relationship with Edward with chapters following one another.

Jane is intrigued by the deaths at the property and becomes consumed with finding out what really happened. She manages to track down Simon who offers a sympathetic ear and implicates its Edward who killed his ex-girlfriend, which I believed also as he is super creepy. For example if he wasn’t happy with Emma or Jane’s behaviour he would limit the hot water in the building or stop the electricity until a new survey was completed.

034.JPG

Whilst Jane plays detective her relationship with Edward ramps up a notch and she becomes pregnant with his baby. Once he finds out he wants nothing to do with Jane. Upset, she turns to Simon who also turns creepy and offers to stay over. As his behaviour becomes more reckless we learn it was him who killed Emma as he couldn’t bare for anyone else to be with her.

The books ends with Jane giving birth and discovering the baby has Down’s syndrome. Edward’s need for everything to be perfect even comes down to his baby and he suggests Jane gives the baby up for adoption and they’ll start again and have other children. We are lead to believe that Jane stops confirming to Edward’s ‘rules’ and keeps the baby.

If you’re looking for the next Gone Girl, this is it and I for one cannot wait to see it on the big screen.

031