When I sat down to write about this book, that was the first and perhaps only adjective that sprang to mind. The Luckiest Girl Alive is one of those books at the moment, and I’m thinking largely about the work of Gillian Flynn, where the main female protagonist is utterly awful. Knoll takes this one step further, for I find myself unable to think of a single character in the book who I liked. I think I felt a little social pity for our main character’s mother, but other than that, no one.
The story centres around Ani, as she has come to be known, a successful New York based magazine writer. Ostensibly she has it all, a great career, desirable fiance, Manhattan lifestyle, mind blowingly thin. You get the idea. The thing about Ani is that she is rotten to the core, a woman so consumed with appearances that she has lost any moral compass that she might have had along the way. The root of the problem? Where to begin? Without giving too much away, Ani had a terrible experience as a teenager and, when I say terrible, I do so as the most extreme understatement. Certainly she wasn’t the loveliest kid to begin with, but what she went through was dire. The book is essentially the story of Ani’s past, exposed little by little.
For those of you who know me, you will understand that I am not one of the ‘blood and guts’ brigade. I have a very low threshold for violence in books and art in general. There is a great deal of violence in this book, but I made it through the story without a problem and yes, it was narratively necessary.
Writers work to make us address issues, to feel something about their work, to pose moral dilemmas. Knoll does this with great dexterity. I didn’t like Ani, I hated the story as it unravelled, I found the characters morally bereft and yet I was unable to put the book down. I wouldn’t rush out to buy another book by Knoll in the same way as I would with Gillian Flynn, but she is cut from the same cloth. I feel with Flynn’s writing that, however despicable the characters, you find something somewhere with which you empathise. Here it was always just a story, a very good story, but a story just the same.
One of my best friends is part of a book club where they drink too much and argue a lot about whatever it is they have read (the best kind of book club by far!). This is a book they should read. It’s a book that makes you angry on so many different levels, that you want to rant, disagree and rage. In a nutshell, it could make you a despicable character.