A Review of Lucy Clarke’s “One of the Girls”
Wedded to Disaster
Lucy Clarke’s One of the Girls was a book that I shouldn’t have read simply because it wasn’t made for me. As a thriller and suspense novel, this is one strictly for the girls. It’s like the tagline from the Secret antiperspirant commercials of yore: One of the Girls is strong enough for a man but is made for a woman. The reason is that the novel is set during a “hen weekend?” “What is that?” you might ask. Well, it’s British slang for a bachelorette party. And this particular party lasts for about four days on a gorgeous fictional Greek island. So, as the adage goes for bachelorette parties, no men should be allowed. Thus, I will apologize to the ladies for sticking my penis into this read — I didn’t realize that this book would be so girly and cute (even if it is a thriller about twisted secrets friends may hold). But I’ve learned one thing from reading this book: women can hold their own with men when it comes to liquor consumption because there is an awful lot of drinking that goes on in this novel.
In any event, the book is set in Greece, as you already know, and is told from the alternating viewpoint of six (!) women who are participating in this hen weekend. (Can I interject and suggest that the use of the term “hen” to describe women is a little misogynistic and might be something that could have been excised by the female author? I’m kind of surprised that a woman in the 21st century has no issue with using what seems to be an antiquated term.) There’s Lexi, the bride-to-be. There’s a token Black character named Ana. There’s a lesbian love triangle (well, the novel is set in Greece after all) between a few characters, whose names I’ve already forgotten. There’s an outdoors-y woman named Robin (or is it, Robyn? I’m having trouble with remembering this detail, too!) There’s also another woman taking part in this party who lost her fiancée not long ago. And another woman or two who is raising small children on their own. In any event, against all these characters and the lush Mediterranean backdrop, a murder happens before the weekend’s done. Which one of these six women will be coming home in a body bag?
To come back to my forgetfulness, I’ll start my critique by saying this is simply a trashy beach read. It requires no use of any brain cells to enjoy, and you’ll probably skim through it as I did. Why? Well, the writing is very pedestrian for one thing and the other is that none of these characters are remotely interesting. Why not? We simply see these women as nothing but party animals. The book literally starts not long after the plane has touched down in Greece and takes place nowhere else. It might have been better for the reader if we got to see these women interacting in their natural habitat before the partying began. Instead, Clarke relies on gratuitous flashback sequences when she needs to explain or clarify something. And that’s kind of the oldest narrative trick in the book right there, so there are no surprises whatsoever. It’s not that Clarke doesn’t try: she does attempt to create false suspense by ending the chapter with the reader thinking a character has died. But, nope, next chapter — and there are 98 of them in this book, which should give you an indication of how short most of them are — that character didn’t die. It was just a fake-out.
My main complaint with the book, though, is that it is loaded with plot holes. For instance, there are a few women who get invited to this party who clearly have no business being there, and it’s not really explained how they got the invite. The whole point of this is to set up dramatic tension between the characters in the confined space of a Greek villa. Meanwhile, the maid of honour who has done all the inviting knew certain character’s backstories in some instances — so why invite problems to your party? It all just seems a little off. However, the other issue is that it really isn’t all that fun watching a bunch of women get blotto over a few days. That’s pretty much all that happens in this book, aside from arguments between a few characters now and then, and, of course, the fact that someone winds up dead. It’s just drink and argue and then drink some more and then bitch some more. On and on it goes. So, yeah, there’s very little depth here and you may just wind up skimming through the chapters.
In the end, One of the Girls is a thriller without the thrills. Strangely, I make this a primary complaint because I recently reviewed a thriller called Reputation that had the opposite problem: it was a bit too thrilling. Thus, I can say that the thriller/suspense genre is a tough one to write in. You either get so carried away with your plot twists as an author (which is what happens here) that everything else that makes for a good book is forgotten about, or the book is so tightly wound that it ends up being uncomfortable to read. It’s that sweet spot in the middle that seems hard to find. Oh well. In any event, there’s no sweet spot to be found in One of the Girls, unless you like watching (or reading about) a group of thirtysomethings who do little but party all the time. It’s kind of too bad because there’s a smart novel buried somewhere in here about the trials and tribulations of being a woman in the modern world with all its societal pressures. As it stands, I had no business reading this one as a man as I felt a little like a voyeur looking into the private world of women and what they do when they’re alone. I’ll try to be more careful with the books I go to select for review from now on!
Lucy Clarke’s One of the Girls will be published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons on June 28, 2022.
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