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“The New Me” by Halle Butler – book review

One-sentence review: A caustic tale of modern life, with its alienation, bad friends and dreams of self improvement.

Slightly longer review:

As children, we often think books ought to be about larger than life characters: adventurers, royalty, vampires and magicians. 

Yet when we’re older and our dreams of becoming rock stars, professional athletes or Hollywood actors have dissolved, it’s the life-size characters that often resonate: the office worker, the lonely, the depressed and – in the case of The New Me, it’s all three.

Millie is a temp who dreams of becoming permanent – which she associates with being a better person, someone who wears nice clothes, goes to yoga and doesn’t get drunk with her bitchy, unfriendly friend.

Then again, most of the women in this novel are catty, bitching and scheming about each other behind their backs (the men are almost non-existent).

It’s the realism of this novel that somehow drives it. You’d think it could be boring ­– especially as it has one of the least charismatic lead characters I can remember – and yet I was happy to go along for the ride and even cheer the character on. 

After all, Millie’s aspiration might be banal: but it means everything to her, which gives the novel its tension. It also hits close to home.

We might not admit it, but many of us simply dream of a more comfortable and secure existence, with friends who care a little more about us than they do and take a little less. If you know what that feels like, this book is for you.

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