I read Ellery Lloyd’s (writing team Paul Vlitos and Collette Lyons) People Like Her, a domestic thriller that looks at that time-sucking phenomenon: social media and how its invasiveness shapes, taints and even endangers our private lives. The Club, although quite different, seems a natural follow-up.
The Club refers to The Home Group which is a collection of ritzy resorts for VIPs. Covent garden, Manhattan, Santa Monica, Cannes, Shanghai, Venice, Paris are some of the destinations, but Island Home, with its 5000 pound per night “price tag” promises to eclipse them all. Ned Groom is the CEO of The Home Group– a “volatile genius who had built an empire on taste.” As his business empire has grown over the last 30 years, Ned has become increasingly difficult. To say he throws tantrums would be putting it mildly–rather he is abusive to his employees who are often left in tears, shaking in their shoes after one of his meltdowns. Nikki, Ned’s PA is used to these tirades and takes them in stride, realizing that they are part of Ned’s process.
The book opens with a vehicle leaving Ned Groom’s latest resort, Island Home. We don’t know who is in the vehicle which is speeding trying to get to the mainland via a causeway (accessible during low tide). The vehicle doesn’t make it to the mainland and then becomes an underwater spectacle as guests see the upturned vehicle from the viewing rooms of the underwater restaurant, Poseidon. Then the plot moves back in time to the buildup of Island Home’s opening; Ned Groom is in full abuse mode. While meltdowns occur before every opening, somehow this one feels different.
Ned was different this time. His anger less focused. His triggers less predictable. His patterns of behaviour, the swoop and swerve of his annoyances, far more erratic.
Apart from Ned’s increased temper before the resort opens, other things are going wrong. Adam Groom, Ned’s brother, Director of Special Projects, at age 49, wants more from life, and he hates his job. The head of housekeeping was fired 10 days prior to the opening, and a replacement had to be found, pronto.
Due to the VIP guest list, cameras/devices are not allowed; guests must deposit their phones at the reception area. We’ve all seen enough embarrassing celeb footage to imagine why, yet at the same time, forbidding cameras underscores the idea that the doings at these resorts may well be unsavoury.
Told from various viewpoints, including Jess, the newly hired head-of housekeeping, Annie, Head of Membership, Nikki, Ned’s PA, we see how even the rich and famous are sorted and scratched off the celebrity list. Membership is exclusive, almost 6,000 total, but only 150 are invited to a launch.
Any system like this is going to breed rancor and enemies. When celebrities “began to realize that they hadn’t made the guest list, they went into overdrive” desperately trying to get invited to the opening. Not being invited is a signal that you are on the downward slope.
“Those who did not quite make the cut instead got placed on a permanent waiting list, queuing in a line that never moved, stuck (as Annie thought of it) in celebrity purgatory.“
Even though the book starts with an accident in which we know people die, there’s not much tension and the tale is slow to unroll. Ned is horrible, and his sole dictate when it comes to guests is “no wankers.” Well he’s the chief wanker and while this would make a great TV series, as a book, I found it impossible to care.