Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Definitely One for the Girls

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Definitely One for the Girls

Article excerpt


THE ONE TO WATCH by Shane Watson (Macmillan, pound sterling10.99)

THE One to Watch is billed on its cover as "an utterly contemporary novel which goes straight to the heart of the way we live now".

That off-putting sentence could in fact be a description of Shane Watson's day job, as a newspaper columnist with a particular genius for identifying social trends.

The publishers are anxious to remind us in publicising this novel that they were the ones who brought us the Diary of Bridget Jones. Well, as it happens, Watson is a former deputy editor of Elle magazine, and very little escapes her as a kind of anthropologist and representative of the Bridget Jones set - bright Notting Hill girls with professions and hopes of matrimony.

It's the kind of journalism that girls read compulsively, and men can't see the point of.

I had high hopes when I began reading.

Trouble is, this is a novel, not a sketchbook of contemporary aspirations, and getting to grips with a plot doesn't sit easily with Watson's real gift, for making fun of the absurdities of celebrities and fleshing out modern female angst. To be honest, if I hadn't had faith in the author, I couldn't have got beyond the first chapter. Which would have been a shame, because once you struggle past the first awkward pages, there are genuinely funny episodes and flashes of the author's trademark acuity.

The story centres around a dead celebrity, a kind of composite rock wife, an ex-model called Amber Best, who dies at the age of 40, and whose friends agree to co-operate in the making of a television documentary about her life.

It's a way of bringing together a disparate group of individuals, whose lives seemed to have been manipulated to an extraordinary extent by the dead woman.

Nice idea, but some of Amber's Friends read like types, like the former goodtime girl whose sex life is now prescribed by her ovulation cycle - that very contemporary figure, the desperate would-be mother - or the gauche boy turned by TV into a gardening celebrity personality, a kind of Naked Gardener. …

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