19 Sep 2012

Review: "A Vision of Loveliness"

The people who say that the world was a simpler place back in the days before internet, mobile phones, waterproof mascara and Topshop haven't read "A Vision of Loveliness" by Louise Levene. Or "The Rules of Civility" by Amor Towles. Or "The Group" by Mary McCarthy". Or "The Best of Everything" by Rona Jaffe. Books about women in the pre-waterproof mascara days essentially. 

But back to "A Vision of Loveliness". It's London in the 1960s and Jane is an intelligent and ambitions young lady who studies everything from Paris catwalking manuals to books about etiquette. She's eager, more than eager, to leave her life in boring Norbury behind and enter another, more glamourous world. So when she spots her ticket to this world, an expensive handbag left behind in a pub, she is not slow to grab it and she makes fast friends with the owner of the handbag, the radiant, beautiful Susie. 

Susie lives a life of champagne, expensive dinner and jewelry on the surface but beneath is a life in a dinghy, dirty flat, working as mannequin wearing sweat-stained dresses and trading "favours" for furs. To Jane, this looks like the glamourous life that she has dreamed of for so long - miles away from the Scotch eggs and economical dresses of her aunt's house in Norbury where there's a distinct lack of both money and love. 
At least in Susie's world there's money, even if love is thin on the ground... 

This is the story of London girls using their beauty and body to make a living in a time long before the glamour models and reality stars. Nothing comes for free, it is hard work staying beautiful for these girls and even at 19, they are aware that there is a sell-by date only a few years in the future. So they put everything on the line to get to where they want to be. They risk it all in the hope of hitting jackpot, of marrying a rick, upper class man. 

Read it if: You like Mad Men and the 1960's and the idea of Swinging London. If you enjoyed "The Group" or "The Rules of Civility" or "The Best of Everything"

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