About the Book
Susie Boyt’s sixth novel is the story of the first year of a marriage. Eve a nervous young actress from a powerful theatrical dynasty has found herself married to an international expert on anxiety called Jim. Could it work? Should it work? Must the show always go on? This is a highly-strung comedy about love, fame, grief, showbusiness and the depths of the gutter press. Its witty and sincere tone – familiar to fans of Susie’s newspaper column – will delight and unnerve in equal measure.
I have to be honest and say that I didn’t really know what this book was about when I was offered a copy, but actually I’m quite glad that I didn’t. I try and avoid books about grief and loss at this time of year but reading Love & Fame recently and finding it such a brilliant and cathartic novel has taught me that I need to be more open-minded.
Love & Fame follows people from two different families. The first is Eve, a very highly-strung actress who is struggling to find her place in the world. The second follows twin sisters Beatrice and Rebecca, who are very different from each other but also very dependent on each other.
The opening of this book sees Eve packing for her honeymoon and the way her anxiety is presented on the page was so true to how anxiety really is that it had my own heart racing at the amount of thoughts running through her head. I’ve suffered very badly with anxiety in my life and this is the first time that I’ve read a novel that truly conveys what it feels like. There is a moment later in the book that struck such a chord with me that I had to briefly stop reading, it really brought it home to me that not everyone feels like this. I could really identify with Eve’s anxiety – the way sometimes something causes it and other times it’s just lingering there waiting to catch you out when you think you’re doing okay.
‘What made you think of that?’ he would say. ‘I don’t know.’ she would smile. ‘You know how I’m always thinking about everything.’ ‘How do you mean?’ ‘Well, all the things I’ve ever said, all the things that have ever been said to me and everything I’ve seen and thought and felt in my life and it all sort of whirls around in my head all day long, and often through the night and it’s constantly going. It’s probably the same for everybody.’ ‘Maybe,’ he said.
Eve has married a man who is writing a book about anxiety and this a huge source of panic to Eve. There is black humour in her panic but I could really identify with her and found myself giggling at how ridiculous it all can be, and how aware of the ridiculousness one can be, and yet still the anxious thoughts won’t stop. While on honeymoon Eve gets the devastating news that her beloved father has died, and this sends her into such a tailspin. Grief and anxiety make for a really messed up time.
‘I suppose in a way you are in the loss adjustment business,’ Rebecca said. ‘A listening loss lessener.’
Alongside this we meet Beatrice and Rebecca. They lost their mum twenty years ago when they were young children and have dealt with it in very different ways. Beatrice has become a therapist specialising in treating grieving children, but Rebecca has remained stuck in her grief. It’s manifested in control over her eating and she cannot bring herself to even try and move through the grief, she wears it like a jumper. In some ways neither of the women have fully allowed themselves to heal from the grief, it lingers in the background of their relationship.
‘People wanted you to be upset when bad things happened in life, but if you got too upset they couldn’t take it, she thought. You’re a failure. You’re disgusting. Sometimes the window of what was acceptable, when it came to mourning, was so small.’
Love & Fame is a real slice of life. Eve attempting to follow in the footsteps of her successful acting father but her then becoming so paralysed by anxiety that she can’t do it is so believable. It’s the essence of being human that we want to be perfect at what we do, especially when people know what our dreams are and are wanting us to succeed but sometimes that becomes a pressure and the cracks begin to form. Losing a parent that you’re close to is something that changes you so completely and makes you see everything in a different light. As heartbreaking as it is it can be the catalyst for you to re-evaluate life and to find the thing that makes you happy. Eve seemed to be slowly finding her way towards this path and I was rooting for her to get there all the way through this novel.
Boyt has captured the essence of grief so well. She manages to show the pain of it in such an honest way, while also showing how it is broken up by moments of humour in the way others behave towards you. My mum died right before my 30th birthday and one of the most painful things on the day was the birthday cards that had a PS saying ‘sorry for your loss’. It astounded me at the time that people would be so utterly insensitive but now I can see the humourous side – I can just imagine people worrying about what to write and then getting it so wrong! We often don’t handle grief or grieving people very well but harm is generally not meant and Love & Fame captured this so perfectly for me. I highlighted so many passages in this novel, which is something I rarely do and I know this will be a book I go back to again and again.
Love & Fame made me cry, and it made me laugh. I found paragraphs that I had to stop and read again before continuing reading because it is so beautifully written. It’s a quirky, funny novel about anxiety, loss and grief and I absolutely loved it! I will be shouting from the rooftops about this fabulous book; I know this will be in my favourite books of the year so I’m highly recommending it!
I received a copy of this book from the publisher and Random Things Tours. All thoughts are my own.
Love & Fame is out now and available here.
About the Author
Susie Boyt is the author of five other acclaimed novels and the much-loved memoir My Judy Garland Life which was shortlisted for the PEN Ackerley Prize, staged at the Nottingham Playhouse and serialised on BBC Radio 4. She has written about art, life and fashion for the Financial Times for the past fourteen years and has recently edited The Turn of the Screw and Other Ghost Stories by Henry James. She is also a director at the Hampstead Theatre.
She lives in London with her family.
You can follow the rest of this tour at the following blogs: