Magazine article The Spectator

Vanity Fair in W.11

Magazine article The Spectator

Vanity Fair in W.11

Article excerpt

NOTTING HELL by Rachel Johnson Penguin Fig Tree, £12.99, pp. 220, ISBN 0670915750 . £10.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655

Veiled roman-à-clef novels of this kind are routinely hyped by their publishers as being certain to cause uproar and mayhem.

Often they do nothing of the kind and pass almost unnoticed. Rachel Johnson's acerbic and well-observed bitch-up of life on a Notting Hill communal garden justifies the copious pre-publicity, and I can report that early copies are already playing very badly in the yoga and pilates classes of W. 11, and in the numerous organic food shops and boutiques where the real-life counterparts of her characters assemble. By the time the schools go back in September, and the full Notting Hill brigade has remarshalled in the hood after the summer, the lynch mobs will be gathering and it might be prudent of Johnson to skip town for a while.

With her magpie eye for local detail and a couple of cracking good jokes per page, Notting Hell is snappy, witty, definitely clever, shallow, heartless and hugely readable. As a former resident of this area, with which Rachel Johnson evidently has a lovehate relationship, I can confirm that every last landmark butcher's shop, restaurant, bar and street is noted and name-checked, plus thinly disguised portraits of the personal trainers, macrobiotic dieticians and acupuncturists that thrive in the neighbourhood. She is spot-on, too, with her descriptions of the sports days, fireworks parties and garden committees of these stuccofaced garden squares. In Johnson's world view, house prices have taken off 'like a Harrier jet', owing to an influx of gruesome new residents, mostly fund managers and hedge funders, who are the main butt of her humour. Her most savage barbs are reserved for super-rich investment bankers, especially when American, and their dysfunctional, fitness-mad, eco-obsessed, fully Filipino-staffed wives. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.