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I first read this story when I was around 20, and identified with Anna Waters, the main character of the book. Although she is, of course, an exaggeration of those of us who've had a sheltered childhood, she's very human, very likeable and very realistic. I've just bought the book a second time at 27 to read it again, and it's every bit as enjoyable as I remembered!
The cover, as said before, doesn't do the story justice, but I have to admit the glossy image it portrays was what originally hooked me, but as I said, I was pretty young and tacky myself at the time! The story inside is nothing like the manner of the cover suggests.
The author really delves into what life is like for each of the characters, even though most of the book is only from Anna's point of view. To read this book is to feel the beautiful rich girl's pain and isolation, the unsociable genius' deeply-buried agony, and much more. Very much recommended!
As an ameteur writer myself, I've realised in re-reading the book that Harriet has most of the qualities of a Mary Sue (wish-fulfillment character). She's rich, beautiful, spunky, has a tragic past and has men falling at her feet. And yet, she's fantastically likeable! I have to bow to Ms. Mackesey's skill in achieving this.
Virtue - Serena Mackesy
Virtue tells the story of (Lady) Harriet Moresby and Anna Waters. Both of them have the same problem: saintly mothers.
Anna Waters is the daughter of Grace Waters. She feels cast out from her school peers right up until university where she meets Harriet. Her life as a child revolves strictly around timetables to focus her learning, the right food and time planning for the optimum brilliance from her daughter who is 2 years ahead of kids her age at school. As an adult she works in a restaurant which has a school theme with Harriet, although her mother believes she works in a library. Things go swimmingly until she is working late at the restaurant and events take a sinister turn.
Lady Harriet Moresby is the daughter of the Duke of Belhaven and Godvia Fawcett (who marries into Aristocracy). Her mother is an actress turned charity worker, whom most people adore. Giving much more information away would give away the plot, which I don't want to do; but when the press figure out who she is and where she's working, she is the subject of some adverse publicity, and it goes downhill from there.
Events during the story shows they have to rely on each other and shows them how much they need their best friend.
Incorporated into this novel, is attempted suicide, attempted murder and stalking. In my opinion, it doesn't really fit neatly into the chick lit genre because it's darker than that, which is what kept me hooked to this book. However the cover is very chick lit, it's got a person posing as a cross between a devil and an angel, and the back is just as naff. Also, the blurb at the back does not do this book justice, it doesn't intrigue you so much you have to open the book and start reading. If I was choosing this book in a bookshop, I may not have even given it more than a glance. I borrowed this book off my sister and it was sitting on my bookshelf for ages, I grabbed it as I was leaving the house so I could have something to read on the bus. That was friday morning and it's sunday evening now. That's how long I have been hooked on this book.
Virtue by Serena Mackesy must be the most mismarketed book I?ve ever read. I bought it as an afterthought as there was a buy two get one free offer in WH Smiths. It is a fascinating, complex well written book masquerading as Chick Lit. THOUGHTS ON PICKINIG IT UP IN THE SHOP The book has a bright blue cover with a picture of an Angel/Devil girl. The blurb reads "Saints, Sinners, and the mere mortals in between What do you do you do you need to become a saint these days? Ambition, determination and a good PR. But what o you do when your mother is a Saint and you just want to be human? Anna and Harriet share a burden: hellishly saintly mothers. So armed with a wicked sense of humour, they set out to paint the town red. And for a while life goes swimmingly. But when they tread on one toe too many the find that they only have their worse instincts ? and each other- to rely on Be good and if you can't be good, be careful." The blurb suggested to me that it would be light and easy to read. Perhaps with slightly so-called crazy (read annoying) characters. What I did get was a much darker, very satisfying read. PLOT SUMMARY The book revolves around the narrator Anna and her best friend Harriet. Anna is the daughter of Geneva Waters, a child prodigy, noble prize winner and a musician in her spare time. Harriet is the daughter of Godiva Fawcett, An actress who married into the British Aristocracy. She is very much a parody of Princess Diana. Both girls feel they can not live up to their mother's fame so live their own lifestyle and be who they want to be. The action starts when Godiva Fawcett dead for 15 years is moved from her place in the family vault to a mausoleum. I can not say much more than that or else I would give the plot away. A lot if it may still sound like typical chick lit but there are no best friends with silly names, hunky company directors waiting to mar
ry Anna or Harriet They are not financially inept; they do not crave Gucci shoes and are not looking for Mr Right. Instead we do have suicide, stalkers and attempted murder. I would say this book has more in common with 'Behind the Scenes at the Museum' by Kate Atkinson, or even 'The Wasp Factory' by Ian Banks than it does Bridget Jones Diary The book is a combination of first person narration by Anna, trashy newspaper columns and flash backs to incidents in the main characters' pasts. It works really well. READING THE BOOK The prologue is actually quite strange. It does not seem to be chick lit at all. It seems more like family saga. He first few chapters actually do feel quite Chick Lit. It starts off with Anna pulling an Australian, however from chapter four or five the real story kicks in and you realise you are reading something special. The CHARACTERS The characters really make the book. They are well rounded and you can empathise with them, feel pity and with some of them you can feel hatred. Anna Waters is the main character and narrator is an eternal teenager. As the daughter of a child prodigy and Nobel Prize winner she had an intensive education but had no emotional support and no childhood or adolescence so is living out her lost youth now. She is man mad but can not get emotionally attached. Lady Harriet Moresby is the poor little rich girl. Raised as the daughter of a Duke and her saintly well loved by the public Godiva Fawcett she is rebelling but becoming a 'Trustifarian;. She does experimental art, lives an old industrial space in the middle of prime real estate and dabbles with minimum wage jobs. She is like the girl Common People was written about. She's the character you think you might hate but you don't She finds it hard to get emotionally attached as she fears people only want to know her for her mother. She had a real love-hate relatio
nship with her mother being dragged around the world and used as a photo opportunity. She craved the real love of her mother and still does not like anyone sharing in her grief. The two share a flat, work as waitresses in a boarding school themed restaurant and share each other's lives. You know the type of girls they are. I know two sets of them. They are always seen together, have their own language, almost their own little world. Their friendship is so strong it is almost like a platonic love affair. The other character that I think is worth mentioning is Grace Waters. She is cold, clinical and not interested in Anna as a person unless Anna is the person that Grace wants Anna to be. I think she is a masterpiece. She is almost monstrous, but there is a side of her you feel real pity. Other things I lied about the book was the parody of theme bars. There are several in this book with gimmicky interiors, and standard cocktails named to fit in with the theme of the bar. I thought this was nice touch. It took me about a week to read this book but I was hooked and was dying o know how it ends, as unlike a fluffy chick lit book I had no idea what the ending was going to be like. I would really recommend you buy this book if you like Kate Atkinson but don't be put off by the terrible front cover. It is available in all good bookshops priced £6.99 UPDATE 25 May 2003 This review now has official endorsment from Serena Mackesy herself Hi, Sarah, I've just read your review of my novel "Virtue" (yes, I'm sad enough to occasonally trawl the internet for my name), and just wanted to say thanks a million. You've no idea how much you've cheered me up. Or how much ammunition it will give me when going through the old packaging argument with my publishers when I finally file the one I'm working on at the moment. You've done me the power of good. I&
#39;m real ly thrilled! best wishes Serena Mackesy
'By the bestselling author of The Temp', proudly boasts the front cover. Hmmm...I'd keep quiet about that, if I were you. The Temp probably gets our vote for worst book written in the last few years. And whoever decided to put that over-used cliché on the back cover ('If you can't be good...') deserves to be shot. Let's move on. Anna and Harriet are both twenty-something. They live together, work together and play together. They have much in common despite having very diffierent backgrounds. The most obvious similarity is that they are both trying, in their own different ways, to escape the reputation and the accompanying responsibilities of their famous mothers. Told from the viewpoint of Anna, we watch as she and Harriet try to live their lives the way they want to, and not the way anyone else or the media tries to dictate. Does it work? To a degree - yes. There is no question that both Anna and Harriet are likable characters. And the story, even when becoming somewhat ludicrous, still keeps on the right side of enjoyable. But it's not without its many flaws. There are annoying characters - Henry the damn cat tries to steal the scene in just about every chapter and does little more than annoy. There are some cringe-inducing moments when Mackesy misses the mark. And, perhaps more surprising considering the author's journalistic background, the numerous 'newspaper articles' featured in Virtue are pretty awful and would be deemed unworthy of publication even in local rags. But, for the most part, Virtue is a much more impressive product than The Temp. The story moves fast, the characters and locations are genuinely enjoyable and there are some real shocking moments. This time, I'm happy to say that we're mostly laughing with the author, not at her.
Anna and Harriet share a burden: hellishly saintly mothers. So armed with a wicked sense of humour, they set out to paint the town red. But when they tread on one too many toes, they find that they only have their worst instincts and each other to rely on.