Our twenties are a time when expectations and reality tread a murky transient place, and the desire to build our identity comes with more knock downs than we may have bargained for. Twenty four year old Georgie works in fashion, lives in hip East London, spends her days in a perpetual drunk/hangover haze and is having fun, bouncing off great friends, more one night stands than one true loves, a few fuck ups along the way.
But, as the blurb reads ‘how can she change it, and what does she really want? Stuck somewhere between a quarter-life crisis and self-fulfilment, Georgie is determined that this year, everything will be different.’
Oh how often have we heard that one? Not only in novels, but in our own heads.
It’s the genre’s great success, the ability to articulate a personal yet universal condition. Yet so many writers do this in a very ‘writing fashion’, a literary way, with prose more florid and obtuse than that which would ever actually be conceived in our minds at the point of thought and action. Low Expectations is not like that. Laugh out loud funny, observations are acute and amusingly acerbic. It is exactly like our own thoughts, troubles, foibles, and fun, if they were to be played out hilariously with sketch perfect humour, as Georgie leans that hair of the dog remedies can’t solve life.
Elizabeth Aaron knows a bit about the world of which she writes. A 25 year old Fashion Design Graduate she has worked for names including Alexander McQueen, Jonathan Saunders and Givenchy. She lives in Paris now, but spent plenty of time amongst the hipster East End of which she writes.
Her character is cynical about magazines which have apparently been written for ‘an audience of lovelorn teenage nymphomaniacs with a mental age of 12’ and the fashion industry, a world filled with trustafarians of ‘undeniable talent and fearsome pretentions’ driven mad by the need to ‘seriously weigh the relative merits of nearly identical buttons.’ One of her nemesis is housemate Stacey, a wealthy, deluded and irritating socialite, who always looks zenned out and stylish, whilst Georgie herself is more likely to look either like a self confessed ‘slapper’ or ‘like the result of a passionate encounter between Alice Cooper an Pippi Longstocking, raised by Stich & Bitch enthusiasts.’
As well as being cutting and comical, Georgie is very perceptive, remarking on how ‘It is a confusing time in which to grow up, in terms of what constitutes inner strength and what constitutes emasculation, what will empower you and what will demean you, what is real and what is fake.’ Despite such articulation she doesn’t see herself as overtly political and with strong ideals, and when her flatmate refers to her as a feminist, she states that ‘whilst I am a feminist, I don’t think I’ve ever said anything strident to Stacy and can only assume she is making the judgement on the infrequency with which I wash my hair’. But it’s the simplicity and clarity with which she vocalises her opinions that make Georgie such an identifiable character, an unlikely heroine who tumbles along the path of life with her tights round her ankles, rather than glides along it hitch free.
As she says on the eve of her 25th, birthdays are ‘a barometer for how well you are succeeding in life combined with an annual reminder of how little time remains to catch up on your inevitable failures.’ What this book reminds us of is how much fun those failures and fuck ups can be, and the life lessons we learn from those experiences. In short, how they make us who we are. If you are looking for a book that can be described as easy reading but yet is not trashy, a book for sassy girls that isn’t chick lit, which talks about sex without being either sexual or crass, and is funny but god forbid not billed as a comedy Low Expectations may just be it.
Out now on Quercus Books