Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford, or Can We Break the Glass Ceiling of Class?

We pretty much know who is in the upper class. They are the beautiful people who show up in the media. Their clothes are a story. Their faces are recognized by millions who have never met them. Or they have a name associated with old money, new money, ill begot money--any kind of money. And they hang with other famous, wealthy, beautiful people doing things and going places the rest of us can only dream about.

We want to find that fairy tale prince (or king or queen) who will marry us and magically make us 'one of them.' We imagine winning the lottery so we can buy the things they buy and go the places they go. Sometimes we even work hard and earn a position of importance with financial rewards that allow us to enter their world. Like Jay Gatsby we think we can buy our way into the right class of folk.

But is it possible to ever really fit in and be accepted into those upper echelons? Or will one always be seen as a wannabe? Can we really change our social status? Can we pass as one of them? Is it money that determines our class, or is it our manners? Or our values? What is class...and how do we get it?

Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford explores these issues.

Evelyn's mother Barbara rues marrying 'down'. Her husband's career as a lawyer may have brought financial reward, but he still thinks like a miner's son. Barbara has stressed that her daughter meets the 'right people', goes to the 'right places' and wears the 'right clothes.' She knows success is about appearances.

Class is not about money; it's all about style. And it's best not to try to ascend to the upper class...Because you'll never get it right. Paul Fussell (http://www.wksu.org/news/features/classinamerica/class-movement/index.html)

For years Evelyn eschewed her mother's advice. After she was sent to a private school and was befriended by some of the 'right' people she understood that the rich were different. She learned the right table manners and social behavior to fit in.

Although he can afford to support Evelyn, her dad insists she make her own way. She takes a job at "People Like Us", a start up social network focused on an elite clientèle, believing she could use her connections with the 'right sort' to advantage. Evelyn had to go to the right places, dress the right way, and hobnob with the right sort in her mission to enlist new members. Along the way she recreates herself, and her past, to advantage. She is selling herself as much as her product, and keeping up appearances costs her her 401K.

Evelyn believes she has been accepted into the fringes of the wealthy, beautiful people. Evelyn is taken up by one of the most beautiful and rich girls in society, whose actions from the get go show she is no beauty inside. Evelyn accepts the misuse and abuse, believing she is really valued.

She sees the glimmer, the shine, and the bling...and it blinds her.

The first part of the novel is slow going, a long build up establishing Evelyn and the main characters. Nothing really happens. One is ready to throw in the towel and move on. But the second part gathers speed as Evelyn loses her head, desperately gambling for a fairy tale ending. She loses her identity, her values, and finally her dignity. The climax is Evelyn's sordid fall and her betrayal of all who really cared for her. The third part concerns her reclamation.

Some of the characterizations don't completely work. Evelyn's boyfriend is mostly an accessory, although his story could have been one of the most poignant. Evelyn's best bud from school disappears; although he is instrumental in Evelyn's final decision he remains off camera and unresolved. Sometimes Evelyn is unbelievably dense.

But I found the premise interesting and after Evelyn starts spiraling down, ignoring all the warnings signs and friendly advice, the book moves along quickly.

The author has signed a movie deal. Most believe the book will make a better movie. I agree. I bet it will be a hit.

Read more about class in America:
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/08/us/class/in-fiction-a-long-history-of-fixation-on-the-social-gap.html

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/story/2012-09-12/richard-florida-creative-class/57767522/1

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Everybody Rises
Stephanie Clifford
St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: August 18, 2015
ISBN-10: 1250077176
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250077172