Published On: Wed, Dec 7th, 2016

Solving a messy life – with Audrey Hepburn’s advice (Book Review)

Title: A Night in with Audrey Hepburn; Author: Lucy Holliday; Publisher: Harper Collins; Pages: 400; Price: Rs 499

She has been sacked from her miniscule onscreen part which is going to make her pushy mother furious, her alluring sister has hijacked the gorgeous actor who actually talked to her, and her scheming landlord has halved the size of the newly-rented apartment. It couldn’t be worse for this modern-day Cinderella and she needs a fairy godmother – but what if this turns out to be Audrey Hepburn?

Not the Princess Ann of “Roman Holiday” or Holly Golightly of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” but Audrey herself in her own stylish, charming, and sympathetic real self, ready to lend a hand – or even a shoulder to weep on – and some well-meaning advice.

In a modernised, slightly subverted vision of the iconic fairy tale, author Lucy Holliday adds one of the most effortlessly elegant actress ever in a never seen before role to a varied cast of characters spanning the unspeakably despicable to the unbelievably helpful in a range of situations, stretching from poignant to hilariously farcical, to whip up a love story unlike any other.

Beginning in the past with an audition where her bossy mother drags the then teenaged heroine and her younger but more ambitious half-sister, and later her separated father calls to stand her up once again, the basic contours of Liberty ‘Libby’ Lomax’s life are delineated.

And as the scene comes back into the present, we find nothing much has changed. Libby is still being chivvied by her mother to make more attempts to become an actress while usually being made to run errands for her half-sister, is virtually forgotten by her film scholar father and has nothing going for her personally and professionally.

Matters only get worse. Libby, who has managed to get the role of “Extra-Terrestrial Spaceship Technician” with one line of dialogue in cult science fiction TV show – but while clad in a green-latex costume including a head-piece that makes her look like a “Warty Alien” (in her own words) – finds a short cigarette break with the handsome hero goes awfully wrong.

After burning quite a bit of her hair, which were otherwise didn’t stand out much, and getting summarily sacked, Libby returns home to find the new flat she has moved into has been diminished by her landlord, who seems to be a Moldovian ex-crime lord and runs a chain of restaurants on the street below. Furthermore, the old furniture her friend has managed to find for her from a studio warehouse is too big for her now reduced living space.

As she tries to take some refuge from the unforgiving past by seeing yet again “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” film starring her favourite actress, who should drop in but Audrey herself.

What follows is a madcap roller-coaster ride as Libby’s life sees change in ways that she could not have imagined – some of her trials are farcical tragic – and behind most of them, is the angelic and placid Ms Hepburn.

But the ‘apparition’, which makes Libby doubt her own sanity, seems solid enough to give a haircut, be heard by her landlord’s son and order stuff from the internet – and also start getting the hang of social media – and be successful in changing Libby’s life – hopefully for the much better.

What will be the outcome is brought out well is this novel by Holliday, about whom we are only told that she completed her first major work, a four line poem shortly before her fifth birthday, found it “such an enjoyable experience that she has wanted to be a writer ever since”, is married with a daughter and lives in Wimbledon.

Don’t dismiss it as a ‘chick-littish’ comedy – with a new twist – for despite the superficial level, it is also a rather clever look into our celebrity, online-obsessed, “must get ahead of the competition at all cost” lives, the weight of parental expectation, especially when unreal, and the equally important mirror image – the younger generation’s expectations and requirements.

And if you find it worthy, Libby’s adventures are set to continue – but with Marilyn Monroe and then Grace Kelly.

(Vikas Datta can be contacted at vikas.d@ians.in)

 

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