This is an awesome work of contemporary fiction, an engrossing story about an actress searching for what she really wants in her life set against the background of a tooth and claws competition for the lead role in a film. The actress, Mai, goes through a lot in the period of the competition. She’s left her job of two years on a television soapy hoping to extend herself in a role she’s taken in a stage play. The change of acting style is a challenge by itself and the difficult personality of the director makes it even more difficult. She leaves her boyfriend, her drug-taking brother comes back from Afghanistan and her main competitor in the competition is a bitch out to pull her down. Mai kind of stumbles through all this, thinking it’s what she really wants, but she somehow sabotages her chances at every turn.
The book deals with various themes related to stars, the fickle nature of their work, the drugs, the self obsession and ethics – or lack of them – and the role of the media in manipulating public perception. Mai’s personal challenge is to find something meaningful for herself in a business that seems inherently shallow.
This is a work that not only takes us deeply into the main character, but also carries us along on a plot peppered with surprises. The pacing is excellent and the actions of some of the characters are mysterious enough that I got an ‘ah ha’ moment when the truth behind them comes out in the end.
The writing, though sometimes a little clunky, has a style of its own, particularly when in Jake’s voice, and it gives the book an appropriately edgy feel. The scenes are well described so I had clear visions of the nightclubs, Mai’s apartment and the church hall where the play rehearsals took place.
Though it made a great ending, I didn’t think Mai’s final decision was realistic. As an ex-actress myself, I know that such a step would be extremely unlikely and though the cause was there underneath, the actual motivation for her decision wasn’t clear or strong enough to make it entirely believable, and it was even less believable from her competition.
There are a few issues with punctuation, but not enough to detract from the story.
All up, this is a terrific book and well worth a read.