Idol by Louise O’Neill – Book review

I was in a little reading slump and Idol was the book to pull me right out of it. I’d previously read and enjoyed After the Silence by Louise O’Neill so knew I liked her tone and writing style. In Idol we meet Samantha Miller, an amalgamation of so many self-styled ‘wellness gurus’ you have probably seen on social media in recent years.

Opening sentence: Samantha watched the girls as they filed into the event hall, tilting their heads back to stare at the ornate vaulted ceiling with its oversized chandeliers dripping silver and blue crystals.

Just who is Samantha Miller?

A recovered drug addict, Samantha uses her past trauma to glean credibility when it comes to giving women advice on how to live a better life and be a better version of themselves. She has become a low-key celebrity, written bestselling books, founded a successful wellness brand, Shakti and crafted a luxurious life based on the idea of a person she is projecting. But who is that person really?

All is not what is seems… what Idol does so well is play on the fake, murky world of social media and its power. It explores the idea that when it comes to reputation, and the version of a person you want to the world to lap up, everything is on a knife edge… the smallest thing can cause a paradigm change.

Her past coming back to haunt her

For Samantha, that thing is her childhood best friend, Lisa. They drifted apart as young adults and now, in their 30s, Samantha is forced to go back to her hometown and confront Lisa after she accuses her of something Samantha is adamant she didn’t do.

It was like they were telling tales about another person, another life, memories that belonged to someone else.

This incident makes Samantha take a look at her life, her motivations and try to save herself. But can she?

Idol? Fallen Idol?

This is a fantastic, tightly written psychological thriller that explores our idea of perception and memory. What makes Idol so addictive is that you never quite get a handle on Samantha. She’s complex and layered – you sympathise and dislike her in equal measure, she’s flawed yet blazing – it’s why she’s so fascinating to read about.

Idol also covers the intensity of intense female friendship and all the drama that underpins it so well, the way we remember things differently from our friends and how social media comes along as a big old spoon to stir the mess that is already simmering in our lives. Loved it, the perfect summer read.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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