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Better than I expected..
on 5 April 2010
I had few expectations for this novel when I started it, but the pace of the writing and the sheer momentum of its story telling won me over: Campbell knows how to tell a tale and retain the attention of his readers. The dangers of becoming a celebrity are well portrayed: the relentless pursuit by press photographers, the door-stepping of their friends and families, media manipulation, the manufacture of rumours in tabloids, and frequent invasions of their privacy.
However, the impression which remains is that the book is not about Maya, it is about Steve and his fatal obsession with her, and the build-up of grievous errors of judgements he makes in his efforts to protect her. In his portrayal of Steve, Campbell creates a fascinating and deeply flawed personality with whom one rapidly loses sympathy. And in doing so, the author has turned the two women in Steve's life into less than credible individuals. His wife, Vanessa, whose pregnancy test opens the novel, is simply too good to be true - would an attractive, and highly capable woman tolerate the way her husband fawns after Maya like a star-struck teenager? And would Maya, a woman whom we are told is very grounded in real life and has not been affected by the blandishments and flatteries of celebrity really have taken up with a truly awful person like chat show Dave?
Therein lies the basic weakness of the novel. The author has provided a morality tale, not about the perils of celebrity as such, but about the ways it can affect ordinary people who develop an unhealthy obsession instead of getting on with their lives. It provides a good measure of satisfaction to the reader who follows the relentless sequence of events that unfold as Steve makes one foolish error after another, regardless of consequences to others. But in doing so, Campbell has turned several of the characters affected by Steve's action into figures that at times verge on the stereotype, and thus not wholly credible.
To conclude, a moral story with an unambiguous message, entertaining and a good read, but marred by some unlikely characterisation. I debated between two and three stars, and it was those considerations that led to three stars.