Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton is the slick thriller read of my summer. It’s a tale as old as time, rags to riches story set in Manhattan with two female characters at opposite ends of the social scale.
Louise is a struggling writer living in an undesirable part of New York with the shadow of turning thirty looming over her. Working multiple jobs to support herself, she can barely afford her rent or make ends meet.
All of that is set to change however, when she meets Lavinia, a privileged Upper East Side socialite who has never known what it is to struggle. Louise falls under the spell of Lavinia’s charmed life and intoxicating personality. Before long, she is living in Lavinia’s apartment, experiencing a taste of Lavinia’s extravagant lifestyle and thrust into the pretentious New York art scene in a whirlwind of superficial parties and nights at the opera.
Once Louise starts mingling with Lavinia’s crowd, things start improving for her. She gains valuable connections for her writing and gains more opportunities in that short space of time than years of living in New York. Proving the old saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
The fairy tale cannot last forever and it is in the first chapter where it is revealed that Lavinia will be dead in six months’ time. It is not too long before Lavinia’s charm starts to crumble as her manipulative character comes to the fore. What she had perhaps not anticipated, was the level of manipulation that Louise is also capable of and the book centres around. the power dynamic between the two female characters.
Lavinia exerts control over Louise; for instance, by not providing her with her own set of keys so that she is reliant on her for her comings and goings. The notion that Lavinia can take this new life away from Louise just as easily as she gave it to her is never far away and it is as if Lavinia dangles this on a string in front of Louise.
Being thrust into such a profuse lifestyle and its infinite opportunities is seductive and hard to be surrendered once you have developed a taste for it; just look at Ivy Dickens in season five of Gossip Girl. Louise is drawn in and will stop at nothing to keep it – whatever the cost.
Social Creature reflects what we do in modern life; comparing ourselves to perfect images on Instagram, using social media to portray a ‘perfect’ life and a night out isn’t a night out unless it was Instagrammed with a thousand hashtags.
Although the prose can tend to waffle and be flowery, reflecting the pretentious scene of Lavinia’s social set, it is a smooth blend of Gossip Girl meets The Talented Mr. Ripley and leaves the ultimate question: is Louise really Louise?
Have you read Social Creature and what did you think of it?