I don’t do a lot of reading-for-pleasure (and even less reading-for-fluff) these days, so it was an unexpected treat to open up my Kindle app, buy one of the recommended, fluffy Chick Lit books, and love it. I loved it so much, I had to make myself not read while I was driving.
The Knockoff caught my eye because of Lucy Sykes’ name. Co-written with Jo Piazza, it is the story of Imogen Tate, the nice version of Anna Wintour, who returns to helm her famous, fabulous fashion magazine after a battle with cancer, only to find that her former assistant is now running the show, and has turned the magazine into an app. Years behind the tech curve, Imogen has to hug the rails of a whole new learning curve to survive in the new industry, begging the question: does she really want to?
I’ll tell you right off the bat that the book is kind of a mess, but it is a glorious one. 90% of the story is told from Imogen’s POV. A random 10% comes from a few scenes in her former assistant’s POV, a few scenes in her current assistant’s POV, and one really out of place scene from her daughter’s POV. There is very little tying that 10% together, or even to Imogen, and because of how the scenes are peppered throughout, they throw you off the rythym, and take you out of the narrative. Weird little scenes between Imogen and a revolving door of friends/family/therapists do the same. That out of the way–it’s a great story.
Imogen is instantly relatable, likable, and manages to be aspirational. It was so nice to read a book about a woman who looks at a problem and fixes her own shortcomings to solve it with grace, patience, and of course panache–this is set in the fashion magazine industry. And, while the book is making clear statements about age, ageism, and to whom technology belongs, the statements are kind, mostly objective, and empathetic.
Even better, I learned things! I learned techie things! And, I logged on to Instagram for the first time in a year, learned to make my Instagram tweet through an app called IFTTT (If This Then), which has all kinds of neat whizzbangs and geehaws on it. I did not learn any tech language, but I did learn where I could go to teach myself to code. Because I need another side project. Could I just have a few more hours in a day, please?
The Baddie, Imogen’s former assistant, is so terrible she’s hard to believe, and the narrative doesn’t do a very good job of getting us from the point where Baddie once loved and cared for Imogen, to the point that she was actively trying to ruin Imogen’s life, but the narrative also never explains why Imogen (after 6 months of chemo and radiation) still has a full head of hair, either. Suspension of disbelief is required.
The cancer is treated well, though. It isn’t played for drama, or sympathy. It only comes up as a part of what challenges Imogen’s daily life, and as a fear in the back of her mind. A woman facing down potential death, while keeping her life together, and addressing it head-on with friends and family instead of hiding it? Nice!
Imogen also has a realistic, healthy marriage. Another nice thing to read.
So much nice about this book, you might wonder why it’s worth reading. Because Imogen is worth knowing.
It’s an easy, light read, addressing real and heavy issues with a sense of well-dressed and fond resignation.
4.75 out of 5 for me.