I like books that are ostensibly about nothing. The ones that meander on by, a kind of collection of every day happenings that, together, make up a life.
So when Rich and Pretty, Rumaan Alam’s debut novel, found its way to me, I was excited.
Rich and Pretty is about Sarah and Lauren, best friends since they were 11. They are now 32, and still “best” friends but in that way that happens when you are 32 and your lives have diverged from the life of your best friend from childhood. No one knows you like your friends from childhood, but aside from shared memories, you may not have that much in common anymore.
That’s what is happening to Sarah and Lauren – life is getting in the way but they still make an effort to go for dinner, or drinks to catch up. Well Sarah does. Lauren is always the responder. Sarah is about to get married and there’s obviously only Lauren that will do as a maid of honour (not matron, because Lauren isn’t married).
I assumed that Alam was a woman. Alam writes women like he is one of us. He understands our contradictions, our motivations, the things that we worry about, the way female friendships ebb and flow. I was shocked when I googled the author to discover he was a man.
I saw so much of myself and my girlfriends in this book. It is a struggle to maintain friendships as an adult, when other life things get in the way: work, partners, family etc. It’s especially tricky for those relationships you’ve had since you were young, before all those things got in the way, when you were used to spending hours together or talking to each other on the phone. When suddenly you have to schedule time for those friendships and those that aren’t that robust, kind of fade away.
Sarah and Lauren are in this place. They don’t necessarily have that much in common anymore but they want to maintain the relationship for what was. Sarah needs Lauren to be frank with her, to have conversations that aren’t necessarily wedding related, to have someone who completely understands her family and their idiosyncrasies. Lauren doesn’t necessarily need Sarah the same way but she knows that her life is missing something without Sarah in it.
This is one of those quiet books that I think gets better the longer you sit with it. It’s sharply written, with wry observations. Alam’s prose is precise – no words are wasted, extraneous.
I think this book would be a welcome addition on a trip to the beach. I think it would make for great patio reading, or to discuss in a book club.
The more I think about it, the more I loved it.