Tag Archives: stalker alert

People Like Her: Ellery Lloyd

“She has always had a fairly complicated relationship with the truth, my wife.”

I’m one of those people who find most social media weird. Don’t get me wrong; the internet is a wonderful tool, but spending hours on social media …. I just don’t get it. Reality TV, which really should be called ‘Manufactured TV,’ is one thing if it’s limited to competitions of one sort or another, but let’s face it, the minute you stick someone in front of a camera or put them on public display, what they do and say is going to change. That’s human nature for you. And that brings me to the more complex manifestations of social media … that most bizarre time-sucking phenomenon. IMO it’s bizarre to put your life on public display and also IMO it’s inevitably going to warp your life, and the lives of the people you care about, if you Vlog your daily life.

Ellery Lloyd’s suspense novel, People Like Her, is the story of a highly successful product influencer, Instagram phenomenon, Emily Jackson (Instamum aka ‘Mamabare’) whose schtick is that motherhood is chaos, sleepless nights, messy hair, and a house that looks like it’s been burglarized. Of course this is just the sales pitch that has attracted over a million followers to her Instagram account. But the face that Emily presents to the world is very carefully sculptured, a product of very deliberate, studied marketing. The novel unfolds through three very distinct voices: Emily, Dan, Emily’s writer husband, and a stalker who has an ax to grind with Emily. Poor Dan really has no idea of what he’s dealing with when it comes to the Mrs.

It turns out that each country has its own quirks when it comes to Instagram parenting. Id been taking my cues from the American moms I admired, who all waft about in cashmere, keep their Carrara marble worktops pristine, dress their kids in plaid shirts and designer denim, and run everything through the Gingham filter to give their photos a subtle vintage effect. A little more googling uncovered that Australia’s lithe, free-spirted mamas all pose against surfboards in crochet bikinis, with their salt-scrunched hair and their tanned blond toddlers. Swedish Instamums wear flower crowns while they coo at babies lying around in grey felt bonnets on paste washed-linen sheets.

You see, with a bit of research, social media makes understanding what people all over the world connect with very simple indeed.

Emily prides herself on her ‘brand’ which she states she “built on honesty, and I’ll always tell it like it is.” Emily knows that for Instagram success, you cannot show maternal competence or organization: “you have to be unable to leave the house without at least a splotch of Bolognese or a splatter of baby puke on your shirt.” Now Emily happens to be extremely competent, an incredible planner and organizer and so the persona she creates for Instagram is a performance. Meanwhile Dan feels overwhelmed by Emily’s Instagram life which has managed, by its demands, to cannibalize his writing career. The fun here is the sheer nastiness of it all: the way Emily manipulates her followers, the way she orchestrates their home to be flooded with free goods whenever she publicly mentions needing a product, and the way it begins to dawn on Dan that he has no idea who his wife really is. Emily has many wonderful characteristics, but put her behind an Instagram account and the humans in her life become accessories to her image. There’s one brilliant section in which Dan goes to answer the doorbell early one morning only to discover that his wife has an interview (of course he knew nothing about it and was totally unprepared) and Emily, the puppetmaster deliberately trashed her house and kept her husband out-of-the-loop to add to the sense of domestic chaos. The book skewers social media, its supreme superficiality, and how people become so addicted to snaring followers and gathering ‘likes’ they sacrifice the very real flesh-and-blood human beings in their lives. While the book adds nothing new to the dangers of stalking and the hazards of putting one’s detailed personal life on social media, the nastiness makes for entertainment.

Review copy

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Filed under Fiction, Lloyd Ellery

The Swap: Robyn Harding

“But I had set something in motion that I couldn’t stop.”

Told through the voices of several characters, Robyn Harding’s novel, The Swap is set on an island in the Pacific Northwest. The island, which is known for its “free-love culture” attracts certain types: hippies, holiday makers and people looking for a fresh start. In the latter category, we have Freya Light, a diminutive blonde “social media influencer” and former Instagram star who has now returned to pottery making in the wake of a scandal. Her husband, professional hockey player, Max paralyzed another player with an illegal hit on the playing field. With Max’s career in ruins and Freya coming under fire from social media, the couple move to the island and settle into their gorgeous, waterfront property. 

The swap

Also looking for a fresh start are Jamie and Brian. He’s a former school teacher, now YA fantasy writer and she opens a small gift shop. They are trying to cope with the prospect of never having a child and they are also trying to forget the humiliation of being so desperate for a child, they were scammed for 1000s. 

So two very different couples here: Freya and Max and Jamie and Brian. …

Into the two couple mix, add Low (Swallow), a lonely, awkward teenage girl, the product of a polymorphous household. Low sees Freya and is enchanted. But enchantment leads to obsession. Obsession would be dangerous enough all on its own, but Freya is a narcissist, she only wants relationships with people who are willing to idolize her. She plays favourites, using people like toilet roll, and while she picks Low as a friend, she’s also ready to drop her when Jamie shows interest. 

None of the characters here are likable. Freya is a monster, and it’s interesting that the introduction talks about Low being manipulative when Freya outclasses everyone. Low’s obsession with Freya becomes dangerous when Freya casually dumps Low in favour of Jamie, and this leads to Low spying on all four adults for .. yes.. you guessed it … a ‘swap.’

I love stories about people who blow up their lives–especially if those lives are decent. In this case, the marriages of the two couples are not healthy, and at first Freya finds the gaps, and then Low takes up the slack. 

This is a highly readable novel. I disliked the ending, but that might just be me. Some of my favourite sections include members of Low’s unconventional household trying to remonstrate with her about being ‘normal.’ Oh the irony.  The characters of the women are well done, while the men are a little weak (in more ways than one). Freya is a black hole in space when it comes to attention, so the more she gets, the worse and more outrageous she becomes. Her egotistical pursuit of internet fame and followers highlight her superficiality, and since opening up one’s private life to the world will inevitably bring criticism, someone who wants 100% worship (no haters) will come a cropper on social media  In today’s world, it’s easy for people to post a few carefully chosen pictures to portray the image they want people to have of their lives. Everyone can be a celebrity. In Freya’s case, she wants people to worship her, envy her, and emulate her, but with Freya, media attention is like crack to the addict, and so she inevitably spins out of control.

On a side note: with the internet, it seems hard to imagine that someone would have failed to sniff out the ‘rat’ that Low discovers in Freya and Max’s past. 

Review copy. 

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Filed under Fiction, Harding Robyn