I had the great luck to discover Louisa McCormack’s work in a roundabout way. I had recently discovered Auntie Fashion and of course was fascinated by her glamour and wanted to learn more. I googled around for recent interviews with Simon Doonan and discovered this one by McCormack.
However, when I asked Auntie Fashion if she was in fact Louisa McCormack, Auntie corrected me. She is Prunella Crudsworth, fashion’s most enduring muse. That was that.
This led me to her novel, Six Weeks to Toxic which I purchased new on Amazon.ca.
I liked the cover, which promised risky fashion. Is the girl in the pink tights and mules wearing what appears to be a laser cut ultrasuede skirt? Wow. The book itself was like nothing I’ve ever read. It is not Weisbergerish fashiony chick lit. Nor is it an Atwoodian Toronto fem-literary. McCormack describes it as “chick literary” but you can be sure that all references to Baudelaire fly over my fashion-schooled head.
The descriptions of the outfits, and the beauty products, that these women wear does hit home with me. Critics with literary pretensions may scoff, but I am the kind of reader for which the words “Happy and Herbal Essences” do in fact tell me exactly what kind of woman Bess Grover thinks she is.
The women in the novel are adventurous dressers. I wonder if the novel is a bit of a time capsule for 2001 – I can’t remember, was there really that much velvet being worn back then? I can’t help but think that Auntie Fashion would approve of all the outrageous outfits. McCormack and Auntie Fashion also share a penchant for the word “soupçon”. I had to look it up. It means “a dash” as in a very small amount. Again, McCormack and Auntie Fashion are not the same person. There is a whole continent of separation between their many coincidences.
I think my lack of experience being 30-something and single kept me from identifying with the characters too closely. All the banter – often witty – made it hard to extract the character’s real feelings from their ironic chatter… a lot like real life in the city I think. We all develop a superficial skin to survive socially and McCormack does a good job of showing that. It takes sensitivity to tone to read the increasing tension between the two leads… and it makes the ending seem very abrupt. Given the excruciating nature of best-friend-breakups, I would have found it satisfying to dig deeper into the character’s discomforts, beyond the dialogue.
Also, sex scenes. I have never read a book with so many detailed sex scenes – and deftly done. Also, Toronto. Yes its snowy streets do play a role in the story without being intrusive or exclusive.
The review? Six Weeks to Toxic is an enjoyable long-weekend read, and you will get extra kicks from it if you have lost a best friend, love your novels liberally peppered with fashion and sex, or have lived in Toronto.