The moment I saw the synopsis of The Couple, I knew in my bones that Helly Acton wrote this book for me. See, I love books that turn our social norms upside down and examine how life could be instead. Also, I basically spent my twenties single, which drew a lot of pity from friends. They made unsolicited comments, “Are you sure you don’t want to get married?” or “I’m happy to introduce you to someone!”
Good satire makes you laugh while simultaneously reflecting on the subject matters. Rooted in reality, it makes you wonder how serious these characters are (very) but then on second thought you realise that they’re world views are so black and white, they couldn’t be for real. With that in mind, Borowitz used satire very effectively in Family and Other Catastrophes. Emily was so neurotic but with the kind of mother she had, it kind of made sense. Her sister Lauren, was fully committed to feminist social activism, in stark contrast to their brother, Jason, who was a desperate divorcé and quite the sexist.
One thing to be said about Beauty Queens is that it’s way over the top. As much as many have referred to the book as satire, I think it got lost in trying too hard to be funny. Some events were just so ludicrous, they were too far removed from social commentary. Maybe it’s because of that that I was hard pressed to enjoy Beauty Queens. “Give it a chance. Things will get better after a while,” I kept thinking. Things didn’t get better—at least not in my opinion.
Taken at face value, I’d have rated this book 3 out of 5 stars instead of 4. The prose is alright. It conveys the story well but doesn’t bring a lot of depth to the characters. I did however find the premise brilliant and ludicrous at the same time. Such blatant discrimination fuelled by appearances…