I am Charlotte Simmonds – Tom Wolfe

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I am Charlotte Simmonds – Tom Wolfe

Post by Graham on Sat Mar 03, 2018 10:46 am

With its racy cover featuring a lithe female midriff, this looks more like something by Harold Robbins than the author of the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Written thirty-six years later, it isn’t, however, a case of Tom Wolfe cashing in, though his publishers might be. True, the book does contain some very graphic sex scenes, but it has a serious subject, the culture of entitlement familiar from his first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities.

This time the actors are drawn from the same segment of society but in their college years, the privileged sons of moneyed fathers, due to take their place at the helm of the country’s financial institutions. Into this mix of jocks, dormcest, formals and being sexiled (look them up American College Student Slang) comes Charlotte Simmonds, valedictorian at Alleghany High in the backwoods of North Carolina. She is attractive, intelligent, a young woman of high ideals if not high heels, and in for a mighty fall.

Wolfe orchestrates this over 676 pages, a blockbuster that is at times self-indulgent but never boring. You can enjoy this as a tale of a naïve young woman seduced and traduced by the vainglorious elite but eventually triumphing. Alternatively, you can read it as the exposure of privilege abused and its comeuppance.  

Initially I didn’t get the link with his earlier work, the story works so well at the surface, but I discovered with the help of Mr Google that Wolfe even duplicates a character from Vanities. The ending may not be what you expect or hope for, but it serves his purpose.

If you like being immersed in a book for a couple of weeks then this could be one for you.

Graham
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