Sunday, June 11, 2006

Pretty Things, by Sarra Manning

In ultra hip and trendy London, four young people take part in a summer staging of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. There's the vacuous fashion-obsessed Brie; gay friend Charlie; swarmy womanizing Walker, and angry dyke Daisy. And, as the story opens, Brie has an unrequitted thing for Charlie, Charlie finds himself attracted to Walker, while Walker decides that he wants Daisy. And, as implausible as any of these infatuations seem likely to bear fruit, things start to get a bit wild and a lot of unimaginable things happen.

The book is way too trendy and current. Not only is it terribly regional (American readers will occasionally find the dialogue and references just a bit off-putting), parochial (London IS apparently the center of all things cool), and temporal (the references to Justin Timberlake and George Bush will not age well), it just grates on the nerves for the first half or so. Then the book does something interesting: Manning stops trying to impress us with how hip she is and starts telling a storr - a very interesting story about sexual identity and the fluid and flexible nature of that identity. By the end I was actually hooked, but first I had to get through the first 140 pages or so to get there.

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