The place for escapism

Often I hide how superficial I am but, no more, we all need to escape sometimes…

I have written before about the distractions I find on Hayu, mainly keeping up with ridiculous antics of Housewives, mouth open. I mean there’s something just truly satisfying about slobbing in your pajamas while you watch women in amazing clothes argue about the same thing for weeks on end. Unfortunately there are also Instagram accounts and Twitter feuds you can follow so that you can be embroiled in the stories for months before you see an episode. As I find myself this week trying to establish a timeline of exactly when RHOBH ladies went to Italy, I drew back a little. I had gone in too deep.

When your rubbish tv habits leads you down an internet rabbit hole, it’s time to put your phone down and pick up your kindle/book. Well that has been my solution. Here are some places I went in the last few weeks. A list of escapism fiction I would recommend if you are lucky enough to be away for a staycation or just staying at home.

Social Creature by Tara Burton Isabelle

A hit debut a few years ago this thoroughly nasty book about living your best life (online at least) is about two new friends Lavinia and Louise. Louise idolises her new friend, they live a lavish life around Manhattan, partying and drinking hard. The pure escapism comes in watching their friendship unfold with plenty of hashtags along the way. The tales twists darkly as Louise morphs her identity and eventually her life into the supremely narcisstic and fascinating Lavinia. This was a fast-paced novel that felt a bit like binge-watching You or Gossip Girl.

If you like this you would also like: Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth, I don’t why but I do enjoy a novel of hard partiers – vicarious living as a stay-at-home person, even in pre-pandemic times. This goes much deeper than Social Creatures and digs into female friendship in an equally fascinating way.

So Lucky by Dawn O’Porter

I was excited to read this novel having enjoyed The Cows by the same author. We follow the lives of three main characters. Women whose lives are entangled with the online world of a model Laura, about to get married to her millionaire boyfriend in an extravagent wedding. It is part farce, to watch various things go wrong in each woman’s life, but also part commentary about the shallowness of living life online. I think that O’Porter, who has herself a large following on Instagram and watched the destruction of her close friend, Caroline Flack, writes so well about the myriad of social issues caused by projecting our image all the time. It’s a novel that make you think, is of the present moment, but is also just really funny. I think the way she brings her characters together at the end speaks to a positive and uplifting womanhood.

If you like this, you’ll like: My Thoughts Exactly, Lily Allen. I loved the heart at the centre of this memoir about the star’s life of mistakes, lived outloud and online. I think the honesty of this book is what appealled to me.

I hope in some way you get a chance to escape this year, even if it is just in the pages of fiction.

Keeping Up with the Housewives

I have read less this month so far. I know why, I have had a resurgence of my obsession with the Real Housewives franchises. I laugh at my husband a lot because he enjoys watching Coronation Street. He doesn’t just let him wash over him, as I do with a lot of TV. He does this thing where when I go and watch casually over dinner, he stops and starts the recording to tell me what’s going on. I find it infuriating! We can never sit down together til late and I worry I will quickly run out of my precious evening. As a result, I have been ignoring his soaps and putting Housewives on my laptop.

He also laughs at my tv taste, don’t worry! Whether I am in Cheshire, New York or Beverley Hills I get hooked on the drama, at this point I have “known” some of the women for nearly a decade. Apart from asking what I have been doing with my life when I realise this, I have also been thinking how all this unscripted drama can help my writing too. (In no way trying to justify this to myself)

1.Gatherings are good How many parties do these people have? In recent days I have been thinking about a scene where there is a dinner party that goes wrong. Well no-one seems to be able to have a dinner party in the Housewives lives without getting up and shouting at their friend across the way. Or, I don’t know, letting their dog drink out of the crystal glass.

Gathering people face to face works very well is the visual media. Confrontation is direct across a table. But also can lead to spiky conversations. Dinner parties and drawing rooms are classic settings for drama in fiction too. Even if Miss Bingley’s insults sound more classy.

“Miss Eliza Bennet,” said Miss Bingley, “despises cards. She is a great reader, and has no pleasure in anything else.”

” I deserve neither such praise nor such censure,” cried Elizabeth; “I am not a great reader, and I have pleasure in many things.”

If you actually want a formal dinner party there’s a great article about the etiquette here.

2. Confrontation is crucial It’s almost as if the producers know to record the dramatic conversations because I don’t think the drama is that heated between friends usually. There may be upsets in real life, but what these women do so well is use lots of direct speech. They talk behind each others backs of course, but at some point they have to come head to head with the person they have fallen out with. This leads to people speaking directly. At each point that we come back to the characters in the Housewives or in fiction, we are seeing a crucial snapshot. Any speech we write also has to be direct, a sound bite almost.

3. Master Manipulation There is always somebody who gets accused of being a master of manipulation. I am not saying which side of Puppygate I really stand on, but if you watched season five of RHOBH, you know that LVP has been accused of manipulating the media before. For the purposes of novel writing, I am finding more that the author has to be the manipulator. Certainly if you want to surprise or confound your reader, drip feeding relevant back story, holding out on details it’s all a game of manipulation. And there certainly seems to be experts in this field to watch on the Housewives.

4. All Female is OK It’s interesting to think that amongst all the female-on-female aggression shown on these shows, they are at the heart vehicles for empowerment. For example they do often discuss other things than their love lives and would probably pass the Bechdel Test many times in an episode. Most of them have some sort of business. The longest serving Housewives are figures like Bethenny Frankel and Dawn Ward, powerful business women and these seem to be characters we are most drawn to. It’s a wonder then that fiction seems to still want to put love stories so central, when other parts of women’s lives can be so interesting.

5. Escapism is Essential I love the Housewives for all the reasons you are supposed to, I love being nosey about the houses, the clothes, the swanky holidays. It’s a sheer escape. At times I gawp at the price tags, but it’s so far removed my reality, I forget to care their housewarming gifts cost the same as my month’s rent. I think if it’s important to remember anything from the fluff, it’s that most of us read to escape reality. Even if you are writing a dark, gritty thriller or a sharp political commentary, there is a place we go away from ourselves when we read.

I hadn’t seen this quote before but it makes what I am writing sound much more profound. More great book quotes here.

If you love some posh escapism , then you’ll like these suggestions too:

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