The late, great Carrie Fisher was an icon, there’s no doubt about that. She was witty, cool af, clever and complex. Her debut novel, first published in 1987, illustrates all of this in bundles. It tells the tale of Suzanne Vale, an actress with a serious dependency on substances, (something Carrie was able to write about from a personal place) in an incredibly funny, no-holds-barred manner. We meet Suzanne in rehab and follow her journey back to the real world (if you can class Hollyweird as the real world) and her struggle to find some solid purpose in her life. Suzanne’s insecurities are wholly relatable; despite her privilege and wealth, she still desires a successful, rewarding career. She seeks the comfort of a normal relationship. And sadly all too familiar; she stands in front of the mirror before a party, furiously analysing every angle of her being, utterly crippled by anxiety. Unfortunately for the majority of us girls, this kind of scrutiny is all the more apparent today, decades after Carrie’s writing. Perhaps such insecurities came from being thrust into the limelight at the age of 19 and quickly becoming the fantasy of every Star Wars fan on the planet. Or perhaps it’s just because society has always placed a hell of a lot of value on a woman’s appearance, amirite?! But that’s a discussion for another day…
This book is as quirky as its writer and took a little getting used to at first, with an unusual and frequently altering structure: it starts off in diary style with two narrating voices, one being Suzanne, the second being Alex, a character who seems to be significant but who we don’t hear from again until a fleeting mention at the finale of the novel. This device may have been just to give us another person’s insight on rehab, or maybe to show us Suzanne from another character’s perspective. The majority of the book is then told in third person, with stylistic chapters that move the tale forward whilst still managing to be brilliantly self-deprecating.
Ultimately, it is a savage, funny and unflinching commentary on Hollywood and addiction. Suzanne finishes her stint in rehab very early on in the story, leaving the rest for Carrie to explore the personal demons of Suzanne and her struggle to accept her own advantages in life and who she really is as a person. Suzanne’s insecurities are heart-wrenchingly relatable; asking big questions about happiness and our purpose, so the reader is never excluded from the Hollywood party. It’s retro but relevant, not to mention very, very witty; mocking realistic portrayals of La La Land big shots and pretentious wannabes, without preaching or judging. Carrie Fisher was a clever, hilarious and unique writer and I can’t wait to read more. The final line of the book really struck a chord, so I’ll leave it here:
“… That night in the emergency room, do you recall if I threw up something I needed? Some small but trivial thing that belonged inside? I distinctly feel as though I’m missing something. But then, I always have.”
Thanks for reading – let me know in the comments if you’ve read this or anything else by Carrie Fisher!