3 August 2011
Book Review: Private Lives by Tasmina Perry
I read my first Tasmina Perry novel last year, Kiss Heaven Goodbye, a superb beach blockbuster of a read and I decided she was definitely an author I'd be looking out for in the future. When I received a (huge) copy of her new novel to review, I was really excited but was slightly worried about the size of it... it was a big 700 page book and I was worried that it might be too long for me. Luckily, the story inside kept me engrossed from the first page, and my arms got a good workout every time I decided to read it as well! The cover is gorgeous, one of the prettiest summer covers for this year, and it'll certainly attract people into picking up the book to find out more. I really enjoyed this book, and here's why.
It has the formula of the last book to a certain degree - rich people, making mistakes, having it covered up and then things being revealed that are shocking. However, this book is longer than the previous one and takes a bit longer to get going as well. There are quite a few characters and stories to keep track of, so it isn't one you can just pay half your attention to, you have to follow it well but once you do, you won't want to put it down. Perry makes use of the third person narrative, which enables her to follow the multiple stories with ease, and gets lots of characters involved too. Also, you don't really feel any bias towards any particular character, which is good because most of them are pretty reprehensible people!
The cast is quite big, and it took me a little bit of getting used to. The main character I suppose would have to be Anna, the lawyer. Anna works in a big legal firm handling all things to do with the media, such as injunctions and making things rich celebrities don't want to get out disappear. She's an intelligent woman, and you have to wonder why she'd do the job she is doing, it's not something I could myself ever wanting to do. I did enjoy how Pery writes her, she has her own principles and rules, as well as her own mess in her own private life, yet is determined to do the right thing by the young girl who enlists her help to look into her sister's suicide. Sam Charles, the Hollywood heart-throb is a good character, flawed but essentially a good person. I was rooting for him throughout the book despite his mistake, and I think it's good that Perry makes him a relatively sympathetic character. His girlfriend Jessica is the antithesis of Sam, she's a manipulator, determined to step on whoever it takes to get to the top. She's instantly dislikeable, but it's great to read how she manipulates everyone around her, and how the story is altered through her actions.
Perry certainly makes you think about celebrities and how much of a private life they are entitled to when they decide to live their life in the spotlight. She does this not only through the character of Sam and his indiscretion, but his ex-girlfriend Jessica too, who is used to show how some celebs exploit the press for their own gains, yet moan when other things appear in print that they don't want. I was constantly considering my own opinion, especially that of gagging and injuctions, which is perhaps more relevant than ever at the moment due to the whole Ryan Giggs and Imogen Thomas fiasco. Perry has certainly hit on a key topic in today's media obsessed world, and I think the book will definitely be thought-provoking and make you consider your own views on the topic! My only real niggle with the book is that it is a bit of a slow-burner in terms of the murder story and there were quite a few things in here that could have been cut to shorten and tighten it up a bit, but I can't complain that much, it was still very enjoyable to read.
Overall, I found this to be a really enjoyable book. It wasn't as good as Kiss Heaven Goodbye in my opinion, slower and the main shocks weren't revealed right to the end, when I felt more could have been made of the consequences of them and how things progressed from there, especially with the final story around Sam Charles. The cast was fantastic though, and there was always something going on to keep your interest piqued. The book has quite a few glamourous locations, from London to Italy and Hollywood too, and Perry writes them all really well, using descriptive language to allow you to visualise them all in your mind as you read. It's a great summer read, one you can really lose yourself in as you read and become totally immersed in the glamourous yet seedy world of media lawyers and the celebrities too... makes me quite glad to be a normal person actually! Highly readable, and very enjoyable, I definitely recommend it!