Gleeful weirdness and vicious satire come together in a debut novel that follows an awful yet surprisingly likable young woman as she attempts to navigate the painful confusions of love, herself, and other people.
Ann-Marie is 23 and discontent with everything. Tormented by the end of a long-term relationship and at loose ends after leaving the rarefied world of Cambridge, she lives in London, working haphazardly at a fancy restaurant and staying with her friend Freddie in a lavish apartment that belongs to his uncle. She's frequently ridiculous, to the point of seeming both unhinged and unbelievable—she pounces on strange men, acting seductive and then killing the mood with mad gestures like extinguishing a cigarette on his chest—but her desperate search for substance and creeping terror that she won't find it, or will fail to recognize it if she does, give the novel an attractive feeling of dark reality. Pilger’s vivid depiction of Anne-Marie's self-conscious dissatisfaction pulls the reader along as the character is plunged into ever more absurd situations. She meets a celebrated feminist author, Stephanie Haight, and falls into the role of ill-behaved disciple to her provocative and abusive teachings. She runs to and from a social circle of spoiled, drug-addled, hipster youth, giving Pilger an opportunity for biting depictions of the silliest excesses of artistic and academic posturing. The novel bangs on the theme of the dangers of obsession with romantic love; the characters are aware of this obsession, dissect it, and fall prey to it. Pilger’s efforts to skewer that obsession are funny but bleak, offering little to alleviate the nastiness and discomfort except for breezily conversational writing occasionally interrupted by strikingly grotesque imagery.
A darkly funny, outrageous, and unromantic novel about a young woman obsessed with love.