In her latest novel, Dream Girl, Laura Lippman is able to draw on her knowledge and experience of writing and the publishing industry to offer up a fairly blunt insight into the life of an author.
Through her lead character Gerry, she also offers some commentary on ‘cancel culture’. I couldn’t quite decide if she was supportive of society’s current penchant for calling out bad or inappropriate behaviour and prejudices, or slightly cynical about how easily some to use (the notion of) ‘cancel culture’ to dismiss stuff that annoys us or with which we disagree. Either way, Gerry finds himself constantly wondering if he’s able to say something or think something lest he be berated for its inappropriateness. It’s interesting because, as we gain more insight into his character and his background there’s a sense that the ‘he doth protest too much’ thing is actually rather warranted.Dream Girl
by Laura Lippman
Published by Faber & Faber
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Thriller / Suspense, Psychological Thriller
Gerry Anderson has been having trouble sleeping. He's unwell - bed-bound - and has only his night nurse and his personal assistant for company. But what's really troubling him are the phone calls. Phone calls from a woman claiming to be the 'real' Aubrey.
But that can't be. Aubrey's just a character Gerry made up in a book, years ago.
Can Gerry see past the ever-blurring lines of fact and fiction and figure out who is threatening him, or has his long-overdue moment of reckoning finally arrived?
Lippman offers up a very interesting premise here and I like that she’s regularly able to offer readers something a little different. Her own experience as an author – dealing (presumably) with agents, fans, and the craft of writing – means she effortlessly inserts us into Gerry’s world.
I follow Lippman on several social media platforms and am conscious her rather clever prose and sassy / witty narrative very much reflect her personality and own voice. (And it’s one that’s been very entertaining during Covid!)
We dip back and forth in time, always from Gerry’s point of view. His ruminations are uncensored however so we’re privy to the good, the bad and the ugly. His backstory doesn’t unfold chronologically but is not confusing and its pacing means we very slowly cobble together a picture of the person who becomes the Gerry we meet in the present.
I’m conscious I’ve used the word clever here a number of times and this book is certainly that. It kept me intrigued for much of it. It does however become a little predictable after a murder takes place. I felt it was obvious where things were heading and though I was surprised at elements, I found it a little unrealistic that one of the main characters (am attempting to be vague!!!) was so easily duped.
At the crux of this book is the character of Aubrey, penned by Gerry in his novel Dream Girl. It’s the point of much contention throughout Gerry’s career and though we learn of Aubrey’s genesis I both: liked that it felt anticlimactic for those who’d made assumptions; but also felt it was a little underdone. In fact I wondered if I’d missed something that made it worthy of such secrecy.
I was also slightly affronted at the ending which was weird (my effrontery not the ending, although…). I’m not necessarily a happily ever after kinda girl. I do like resolutions and we have that – kinda.
This would be an excellent book club read as there’s a lot to discuss about Gerry in the present and past. About his behaviour and his attitudes. What is reflective of the time and place? How easily one can be influenced or our heads turned by our circumstances? And then of course the debate about whether our behaviour defines who we are, and… if we’re capable of change.
In addition to ‘cancel culture’, Lippman also shines a light on social media and its pros and cons, particularly the habit of anonymous gaslighting.
Dream Girl by Laura Lippman will be published in Australia by Allen & Unwin in early July 2021, but is available elsewhere now.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.