A young woman who works at a tech startup tries to shoehorn her way into New York’s high society.
The most notable thing about Evelyn Beegan’s life so far is that she went to Sheffield Academy, a New England boarding school where the vibe is so preppy that her social-climbing mother, Barbara, bought a used 1985 Mercedes once she realized “none of the old-money mothers would deign to drive a fresh-off-the-lot BMW like the Beegans had shown up in.” (Clifford, a New York Times reporter, has a good eye for class markers.) Now Evelyn works at People Like Us, a social networking site trying to recruit “the elite’s elite,” and she’s busy using Sheffield friends such as Preston Hacking, “a Winthrop on his mother’s side,” to insinuate herself into the exclusive swirl of charity balls and weekends in the Adirondacks where she can engage new members. But it’s more than business to Evelyn: she genuinely admires luminaries like Camilla Rutherford, “the clear center of young New York,” and concocts ever more elaborate lies about her own background in an attempt to befriend them. Hasn’t Evelyn ever heard of Google? It shouldn’t be hard for people to find out she was never a debutante in Baltimore, among other things. Having her father, a lawyer who specializes in suing pharmaceutical companies, indicted for bribery isn’t a secret she’ll be able to keep forever, either. There’s been a big debate in the past few years about whether literary characters need to be likable, and of course many great books feature protagonists you wouldn’t want to befriend. But Evelyn spends so much time doing such bone-headed things, and for a goal that seems so dated, that’s it’s hard to work up any interest in what happens to her.
Clifford’s debut tries to be a Bonfire of the Vanities for our time but doesn’t make it.