Many of you will have heard of my good friend, Gareth Russell, who runs http://garethrussellcidevant.blogspot.com/ and who frequently posts about Anne Boleyn and Tudor history. Well, I got to know Gareth last April and May when we were both counting down to Anne Boleyn’s execution and linking to each other’s articles, because we each focused on different things, and when I heard that he was writing a novel I just had to make sure he sent me a copy to review! I love Gareth’s writing so I was pretty sure that any novel by him would be a great read.
Gareth warned me that “Popular” was not Tudor but explained that one of the main characters, the queen bee Meredith, is an Anne Boleyn fan and that the group of friends love “The Tudors” series, but I didn’t care, sometimes it’s nice to have a break from history and I did enjoy this novel, which I guess you’d call “chick lit”.
“Popular” is about a group of 16 year old friends who all go to the same school in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and the things they get up to. They’re not normal kids, they’re all rich and fabulously popular – think Sharpay Evans! Designer clothes are everyday wear, spa days are not a luxury, but a weekly must-do, Carrie Bradshaw is their role model and diet coke is the drink of choice, when champagne is not available of course. Main characters include:-
- Meredith – The queen bee of the group who says who’s in and who’s out, what’s in and what’s out, and who manipulates everyone around her. She has the charm and magnetism of her heroine, Anne Boleyn, and there just may be a streak of vulnerability lurking beneath her glossy veneer.
- Imogen – Meredith’s drop-dead gorgeous best friend who gets in a bit of a mess with her love-life after taking advice from her friends and one of her favourite TV series, Sex in the City.
- Kerry – The “Pink Manolos Princess” who suffers FIBs (Fabulously Induced Breakdowns) over the slightest thing, e.g. drinking a fat coke by accident.
- Catherine – The flaky misfit who is always on the edge of the group.
- Cameron – The only boy in Meredith’s clique and the guy that Meredith can always depend on. Poor Cameron is hopelessly split between his new super popular friends and his childhood best friend, Mark, who Meredith hates with a vengeance.
- Blake – The new, and rather handsome, American kid.
- The lads: Mark, Stewart and Peter – The boys that Meredith ‘allows’ her friends to occasionally spend time with!
The novel follows the group through the events of their school year – the return to school in September, Kerry’s 16th birthday party, nights out, dates, balls, Christmas, non-uniform days, mock exams, Valentine’s Day, sports day, GCSE exams and the end of term – and everything that goes with it: drunken antics, hangovers, infidelity, stolen kisses, secrets, lies, fashion faux pas, disasters, break-ups, romance, heartache, bitching, “emergencias”, tall tales, revelations… You name it! The book is a fun read, just perfect for the beach or lazing in a sunny garden, and takes you back to your school days when every faux pas was an “emergencia”. In Gareth’s bio at the front, it says that “nearly all the book is based upon events that have happened during his schooldays – the more ridiculous they seem, the greater chance that they are close to real life”, well, Gareth, your school days must have been one hell of a ride!
So, even though this book has nothing to do with Anne Boleyn or Tudor history, apart from Gareth being an historian and the novel containing references to Anne and “The Tudors”, I would recommend it. Why? Because it’s fun and it’s by a great writer. If you enjoy “Sex in the City”, if you want to be reminded of the angst and madness of your school days, if you love Marie Antoinette, Anne Boleyn and Scarlett O’Hara, and you appreciate good modern fiction, then I’d recommend “Popular”. Gareth is already working on the sequel and I can’t wait to read it.
Congratulations, Gareth, on a wonderful debut novel!
P.S. Gareth is going to be leading our Executed Queens Tour in June 2012 and will be sharing his extensive knowledge of Anne Boleyn with the group. See The Executed Queens Tour page on our new History Tour website for more details.
P.P.S. Happy 4th July to our visitors from across the Pond!
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Penguin (7 July 2011, UK and Ireland)