Published by Macmillan on August 18th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Women
Buy on Amazon
“I think our generation is obsessed with too much. We keep wanting to trade up, and if you think about Schopenhauer, the futility of striving and the ultimate emptiness of human desires…”…Evelyn had thought the weekend in the Hamptons, at Nick’s house that he owned and didn’t rent, with her friends who had gone to Sheffield and Enfield and St. Paul’s, Harvard and Dartmouth and Tufts and HBS, was enough. Yet she had taken the train when she was supposed to take the bus, and the bus wasn’t good enough so they were discussing a helicopter, and then the helicopter would be subordinate to a plane, and there was never enough, and nothing was ever good enough. Always, the more danced around, taunting her.
Twenty-six-year old Evelyn has always felt like an outsider among her old money peers. When she lands the recruitment job at the high society social media site People Like Us, she gets the opportunity to solidify her place with the 1% and finally earn her mother’s approval. On the blind pursuit of status and wealth, Evelyn’s actions get more and more ridiculous as she robotically ascends the social ladder. As her credit card debt mounts, her family encounters legal trouble that threatens the social status she has worked hard to build. Set in New England at the cusp of the the 2008 Great Recession, Everybody Rise is a cautionary tale about the the perils of social climbing and living in excess.
The world always said to just be yourself, but it turned out when Evelyn was herself, no guys were at all interested, so she was left with games of make-believe, expressing enthusiasm for whatever the men wanted to do, be it rock climbing or going to a cheese-beer pairing or a Knicks game.
I was so bored for the first third of the story, which in an almost 400 page book is a long time to be disinterested. Between the extravagant descriptions of wealthy people’s properties and the main character’s complete lack of personality, I was really struggling to get through the book. Evelyn might have been more interesting if we could get inside her head, but viewing her through a detached narrator was dull. I had a difficult time understanding how such a bland person managed to surround herself with such well-pedigreed friends, not that they were all that interesting either. The friends all have a role to play, especially Charlotte and Scot as the reality checks.
The four years since her Davidson graduation had gone by at once too slowly and too quickly, and Evelyn found herself in her mid-twenties without the life she had expected to have.
The turning point for me was the flashback to a boarding school term abroad in France (Chapter 11/33%). That chapter gave a brief glimpse of the moxie and sense of humor that might have attracted people to Evelyn. It also got more interesting when the Camilla, an A-List socialite and alpha female, started to play a bigger role. Camilla is a textbook frenemy, but Evelyn is too busy single-white-femaling her to notice! Evelyn’s ennui will be relatable to many, but her thought processes gets more and more absurd as the novel goes on (and on and on and on). Evelyn is a social chameleon of sorts, but she is not a natural at it and makes plenty of awkward missteps. Once she gets a taste of the affluent lifestyle, Evelyn gets caught up in a world that is not her own and loses all sense of self and empathy.
You couldn’t cover up the smell of new money, sharp and plastic as a vinyl shower curtain just out of its box. You could try, layering over it with old houses, old furniture, and manners that mimicked those of people who’d been living this life for centuries. But unless your fortune was generations old, too, it—you—would never count in the same way.
Evelyn’s mother Barbara is an interesting character. She went to great lengths to attempt to worm her and her family into the old money crowd and has always encouraged Evelyn to ingratiate herself with the elite. The sections with Evelyn and her mother have a distinctly 1950s-1960s feel. My visions of many of the scenes appeared Mad Men-esque, which is fitting given Evelyn and her mother’s outdated view of the American aristocracy!
Everybody rise, everybody rise, everybody rise. That was exactly it, she thought. Upstairs, and outside, and in every street and every avenue of Manhattan, everybody was getting higher on a tide of money and ambition, swimming frantically and trying not to drown. And she? She didn’t have the energy to even tread water anymore.
I liked how the author took me from waiting for Evelyn to get her comeuppance for a large percent of the book, to making me feel sympathy for her. Many people can relate to changing an aspect of themselves or hiding something to prove themselves with a particular group, though maybe not to the same extremes as Evelyn View Spoiler »(ex. Preston’s secret) « Hide Spoiler. The book also addressed the double standards that exist between the classes View Spoiler »(ex. the differing attitudes towards Evelyn & Jamie post-tryst, consequences for Evelyn’s father vs. those on Wall Street) « Hide Spoiler. Evelyn’s story ends, just as Wall Street’s downturn is about to begin. Towards the end, I got the sense that the author was worried the reader wouldn’t get the point of the book and she really hammered the point home.
She had been waiting, she thought. Always waiting. In New York, waiting for her life to be replaced by some other, more interesting life on offer. Waiting for money that she felt ought to be hers to flood in and elevate her position, from some male source, her father, Scot, Jaime. Waiting to be recognized and accepted in the social scene, starring on Appointment Book. When she thought about it, she had always imagined her future self in pictures with her face on others’ bodies, in others’ dresses, at others’ parties, in others’ poses. Now, back home, she had been biding time, waiting for some sign about what her life’s goal ought to be. Maybe it didn’t work like that. Maybe you had to change things step-by-step.
I was expecting something a little more juicy or something with a sense of humor, but it was more of a mildly entertaining moralistic tale with a very slow-start.
The same song in a different key; her trying to create a life that other people had deemed worthwhile, Evelyn fighting to prove herself once again.
*Beaumont, TX mention in Chapter 7. Not sure if Evelyn would have thought her father’s job was so glamourous, if she actually saw where he was staying!