Apple March, once the most promising student at the Emmaline Grey Academy for fashion design, now works in retail – but a series of events lead her to reassess her professional life. But will they leave her personal life in tatters?
I was once a devotee of Sophie Kinsella, and Overend has a similar style, although her tone is a little less conversational. This was the first piece of women’s fiction I’d read for several years, and it reminded me just how much fun the genre can be.
The novel has a refreshingly non-judgmental attitude towards female sexuality – while the consequences of promiscuity are sometimes unwanted, the characters themselves are never condemned for it, and it includes well-rounded LGBTQ characters. Female friendship is an important facet, and misogyny in men is a deal breaker. I would have gone so far as to call it a feminist novel if it weren’t for the disappointingly one-note character of Heidi, our heroine’s romantic rival, who is probably the only straightforward villain of the piece, and unfortunately fulfils some negative feminine stereotypes such as being bitchy, image-conscious and a gossip. On the other hand, the other female characters – including the less sympathetic ones, such as Veronica – are better developed, and usually likeable despite their mistakes and foibles.
Overend makes a clever creative choice, saving the reveal of what happened at the Emmaline Grey Academy until towards the end of the narrative. This creates tension, and also reflects Apple’s determination not to revisit that part of her life. I was genuinely intrigued, and wasn’t disappointed by the pay-off.
I enjoyed the love story, while appreciating that comparable weight was given to Apple’s career (although we are also shown women who choose not to have a career, which is presented as an equally valid choice). However, I did feel that Apple’s financial dilemma, and its eventual solution, might have carried more weight if Overend had spent less time dwelling on the excesses she is privy to through her rich friends.
Niggles aside, I found the novel compelling, well-written and fun without being frivolous.