***.5 (NO SPOILERS)
WHY I CHOSE IT: I’ve read Dawn O’Porter’s young adult novels so I was eager to buy ‘So Lucky’, a new release for adults, when I saw it on #bookstagram.
THE PLOT: ‘So Lucky’ primarily follows Ruby and Beth; two women who appear to have it all. Ruby has a great job and a toddler, whereas Beth has a supportive husband, thriving business and newborn baby. They both live in an affluent area of North London and should both feel lucky for their lives, right? But beneath the surface they’re both struggling and their ‘perfect lives’ begin to unravel. Things come to a head when they both become involved in Instagram influencer Lauren’s impending nuptials to a famous tycoon. It turns out that even Lauren’s #blessed life isn’t what it appears to be, and all three women realise no-one’s life is as perfect as it looks from the outside.
MY RATING: I have to give this novel three and a half stars because it was so fun to read. Ok, it’s not a literary book, but I flew through it within a day because it’s so enjoyable.
The plot was one of the most successful aspects of the book, as each character’s storyline slowly becomes intertwined with the others in realistic and interesting ways. I guessed a couple of the twists but I was motivated to read on and see if my suspicions were confirmed. By the end, all of the subplots came together nicely and there was a strong resolution.
As a lover of multiple narrators, I felt like the switch in POVs throughout the novel worked well. This is successful because the characters are well-rounded and realistic. Beth was very funny and relatable, and although Ruby is ostensibly a bitch, she was my favourite. Ruby is me on a bad day; she’s grumpy, self-righteous and uptight. However, her character resonated with me because of her trouble connecting to other people. For example, she’s reluctant to have dinner with her friends because she doesn’t want to open herself up to them. However, she convinces herself to go by reminding herself of the times she’s ‘saved them’. This small deliberation reveals a lot about her character because she views friendship as transactional and she casts herself as a sort of hero. It demonstrates that she’s not a great person but I related to that feeling of not wanting to be social.
My main criticism is about the setting. I was a bit disappointed that there didn’t appear to be ANY non-white characters, despite the extremely diverse setting of North London. I brushed this off, assuming that maybe Ruby’s friends (particularly Yvonne) were of other races, but supposed it wasn’t mentioned because it wasn’t pertinent to the plot. However, this issue of diversity was exacerbated in a scene when Beth visits a spa. The author describes the different women in the spa, and takes time to note that one of them is a ‘large black lady’. This would have been fine, but she doesn’t mention anyone else’s race, either at the spa or elsewhere in the novel.
As a Londoner, it just felt weird that there was absolutely no diversity – particularly as even the most affluent people I know, who live in the area where this is set, are quite diverse (or at least have diverse friends!). As the only women described by her race is ‘a large black lady’ and everyone else is described as ‘a woman’, I can’t help but assume that this unnamed character is brought in to demonstrate her ‘otherness’ to the protagonists. The novel’s central theme is about appearance and acceptance, and the spa scene is about celebrating different types of women and their bodies. However, as the only ethnic character has ‘extra-long breasts dangling over the rolls of her belly’, it felt like the author was saying to the protagonist, “it could be worse, you could look like that large black lady!”. This wasn’t a major issue and I would still recommend this novel, but it was very noticeable for me – potentially because I’ve been reading a lot of female authors of colour, who seem to portray London more realistically.