Book Reviews

Book Review : Oligarchy by Scarlett Thomas

Title : Oligarchy

Author : Scarlett Thomas

Publisher : Canongate Books

Pages : 224

ISBN13 : 978-1786897794

Story :

When Natasha, daughter of a Russian oligarch, arrives for her first day at an all-girl boarding school, she finds herself thrown into a world of fierce pecking orders, eating disorders and Instagram angst, the synopsis reads. Then her friend Bianca mysteriously vanishes, and the world of the school gets ever darker and stranger.

Review :

Natasha is the daughter of a Russian oligarch who is sent off to a boarding school in classic London. She shares her dorm with girls alike : young, naive and privileged. When you gradually read, you’ll notice this ain’t the ideal hostel you’d want to end up in. Enveloped in antiquity, the environment is nothing like that of a cheerful mien. And if you read carefully, you’ll find it rather ominous and menacing in a way that cannot be described by mere words. It’s like the saying, “there’s something in the air”, something so indistinct that you can’t put your finger on it.

Starting with the characters, at the central there’s Natasha. She’s the outside stimulus to this barricaded habitat, who acts like that one determining variable in a controlled experiment. She finds herself in a world she doesn’t quite understand, and when she does, things had had already taken a twisted of turns. Surrounding her are the other inmates of the hostel : Bianca, Tiffanie, Lissa, Donya, Rachel. Their lives are bound together, as they derive their entertainment from the approval of the White Lady whose portrait hangs in front of the main staircase. Their everyday chores involve internet browsing, which is allowed mostly for an hour, consists of stalking celebrity profiles, not posting, and planning elaborate diet plans which they follow almost like a ritual. It is actually quite easy to dislike them if one misses to read between the lines.

I think what Oligarchy here really meant was not the similar backgrounds all these girls share. It’s about the undaunted power that is held over them, making them clueless, lost, and superficial. Their normal does not coincide with the rest’s, and it is only natural if you really think about. The hostel is like a prison which holds them in, pushing them over the edge of normalcy blinded by fake privilege.
Oligarchy is humorously dark, poignant and blends in smoothly with the mind of the reader. It’s like that exotic tea bag that needs to be dipped in hot, not boiling water slowly until it takes the color, but the water remains crystal. I have given it all the Stars!

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