This is not your ordinary abduction tale. The truth mingles with re-invention and obfuscation. Pretty Is is a promising debut by Maggie Mitchell, a study in memory, an examination of our ability to move on from difficult experiences, and how today’s celebrity culture makes it impossible to avoid the past.
Two 12-year old girls – Louis and Carly May – go missing in separate incidents, they are assumed dead. This is the story of their abduction, their life with their abductor Zed, and more importantly their life afterwards. But is what we are reading the true story, a lie, an embroidered version of what happened, or total fiction?
The story of the girls is told in tandem with what is happening to the adult women today. Both girls tried to move on but inevitably they felt cut off from everyone else so, as adults, they re-invented their pasts, their names, their identities. And so, page by page, the true story of what happened to Lois and Carly May is told. Or is it? Which of the girls is the most reliable story-teller?
Carly May becomes actress Chloe Savage, Lois is a university lecturer but also writes novels under a pseudonym. Both are hiding from the cult of celebrity enabled by the internet’s ability to archive old news, true news, mis-reported news.
Things hot-up when Lois writes a thinly-veiled fictionalised account of their abduction. The novel is made into a film, inevitably Carly May is cast as a detective. The film brings the two women together for the first time and, as well as facing the after effects of their abduction, they must deal with a stalker, Sean, a student too interested in Lois’s background.
Some questions are left unanswered. The motivations of Zed in particular are sketchy. And although there is no doubting the connection forged between the two 12-year old girls, they do seem to accept their abduction rather apathetically.
‘Pretty Is’ by Maggie Mitchell [UK: Orion] Buy here
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