When Louise met Lavinia, she knew her life would never be the same. The truth is, when anyone meets Lavinia, their lives change forever.
Louise was barely scraping by in New York City. She worked as a barista and a writer for an online resale site and an SAT tutor. It's one of her tutoring flyers that first catches Lavinia's eye. Her younger sister Cordelia is in town, and Lavinia wants to make sure she's ready for her college test because Cordelia wants to go to Yale, and everyone wants Cordelia to be successful. Or maybe Lavinia just wanted someone to stay with Cordelia while she went out. Lavinia had the money to pay Louise for her time with Cordelia, which Louise desperately needs. But Lavinia stayed out all night.
Then Lavinia came back and she had ripped her dress and she promised to pay Louise for all the hours she spent there but somehow that never happened. But Louise fixes Lavinia's dress anyway and becomes Lavinia's friend and enters Lavinia's world, a world that Louise had given up on, like she had given up on her dream of Being a Writer.
Except that Lavinia is a writer too. She encourages Louise to write and introduces her to writers and editors and an entire artistic group of friends, and Louise finds that she wants to stay. She wants to be part of their world. She doesn't want to have to keep struggling for money and working three jobs and feeling all alone in the city. She wants to be part of something, part of this community, and she will do anything to stay there.
She will do anything to stay there.
And she does.
Tara Isabella Burton's debut novel is a dramatic look at class and desire, at how being a have-not can make you crazy for the power, the lifestyle, and the social cache of the upper class. Social Creature is about the relationship between two women, Louise and Lavinia, about the secrets they share and the lies that come between them. The story is a mix of homage to Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley and the fast-paced social media world that we live in now. There are moments when a heavy-handed omniscient narrator interrupts the action, which can be a little off-putting, but other than that, Social Creature is a low-burning psychological thriller filled with unlikable characters you want to see knocked down a peg or two and the ambitious up-and-comers we all are deep down inside. This is a crazy, fascinating, disturbing, can't-bear-to-put-it-down novel, and I highly recommend it.
Galleys for Social Creature were provided by Doubleday through Penguin's First to Read program, with many thanks.