A realistic depiction of today’s Caribbean life
Book review of Plastered in Pretty
Natasha Marks, a St Vincentian author and geography teacher at the St Vincent Girls’ High School, has some serious thoughts on the modern-day world citizen who is hooked on social media, materialistic to the core and fake as ever. She shares these thoughts through characters and their antics in her book, Plastered in Pretty.
With its graphic-artist-created-it-girl on the cover with perfect golden lips and a model figure and pose, silhouetted and beautifully balanced, with an orange background, the pocket-size Pretty in Pink is a gorgeous book to look at. It is also an insight into the book’s content, peopled with superficial characters, their online ‘fabulousness’ and ‘fabulous’ lives.
In the 119-page-short novel, Marks brings us face to face with the modern-day Caribbean reality of brand-name worshipping and brandishing St Vincentians, which include civil servants, politicians, everyone and their family and friends, who live their alter ego lives online.
Kudos to Marks for writing Plastered in Pretty, which is in step with what is happening now and does not pander to the often-expected image of Caribbean rural or pastoral life. Marks’ writing talent is unquestionable. It is sharp and economical and knows how to be sardonically funny. It’s this talented writing that makes it a page turner.
The fact is, today’s Caribbean citizen pulls out his phone and records a car accident instead of running to help victims, as is depicted early on in the novel. Marks brings the microscope even closer when one of the ladies rescued by the man who did not own a cell phone pulled her rescuer close not for a thank you hug, or a whispered “thank you”, but a ‘selfie’.
A definite mirror on modern Caribbean life, Plastered in Pretty can be seen as a wake-up call for a return to valuing truth and worth, not brand names, Brazilian weaves, etc. Throughout the book, Marks captures the pathetically fake aura now being emitted by members of the Caribbean ’envied’ class, or wannabes of same, with every departure lounge experience, especially if to somewhere like Paris, a social media photo and posting opportunity.
Interestingly enough, the main character in Plastered in Pretty is unnamed by the author, just as how many people seeking to create glamorous online lives are far from the model of their view of perfection they present themselves as, online. With such an ‘on fleek’ look and fabulous, online presence, the unnamed main character could also be considered mask girl as the face she presents is plastered on, daily, or to dwell in the pen of pun, is made up by make-up.
With all the tribulations make-up girl has had with men, including a brutal encounter with a rapist landlord; a boyfriend who marries the fiancée make-up girl, or let’s call her plastered in pretty, never knew about until viewing the wedding online; the old politician whose only attractions are his money and power and who falls dead; or even a pastor’s masochistic son, the reader secretly hopes that she experiences an epiphany, rejects the ultra-materialistic road and finds a decent-enough someone to settle down with.
Not so, plastered-face girl sticks to her religion of brand names, fabulous online lives, and men who spend on her. She ends up being left by the man she actually married when he saw her real face. Incidentally, he also took all her money when he left.
True to the warped world in which we now live, where name brands and pretty faces count more than honesty and industry, the book ends with Ms. Plastered in Pretty about to embark on another romance a pretty, yet fake face has landed her. One that will entail lots of online flirting and courting.
There are many scandals in Plastered in Pretty, which I won’t leak, but suffice it to say, Marks’ book is, sadly, a reflection of the world we are now in – particularly our Caribbean society, with its hankering after all things cosmopolitan, including the daily scandals.
Fun to read
Marks is a good writer and fun to read. My recommendations? Get this book. Hear the voice of the now and new Caribbean writer bold enough to not write the ‘expected’ Caribbean novel, but the now Caribbean reality, that captures to the ‘T’ many aspects of life here ‘in di islands’, including the modern-day civil service working environment and office culture.
An example of her uncannily accurate depiction of the civil service office culture lies in her stock character. The Thought Collector, who says bad things about the supervisor to hear Ms. Plastered in Pretty’s response, with the sole aim of going right back to the supervisor with the information. The protagonist’s response to one such attempt by The Though Collector is a delight to read. Kudos to Marks for aptly naming that character.
Below are two telling excerpts from the book that reflect life online.
She took a few weeks off from department X to organize her new place. This mainly involved uploading photographs and videos of every room in her spacious apartment, its immediate surroundings, the coastal landscape and the ocean, with Bequia standing majestically a few kilometres away. Somehow the number of likes she received was near zero, but the videos were watched 10,947 times in less than twenty-four hours. She was alarmed that her misfortune was more well received than her blessing.. . She removed the videos along with the photographs in hopes of normalcy. (Chapter 12. P. 64)
Snipperz who works at nowhere, does not own any legitimate business or possess any significant assets and lives in a 2X4 shack, showed his brand-new licensed Beretta 9mm (4pics). DaMonster showed his tattooed arms, legs, back and neck (16 pics). Fickle n Frens was enjoying bars of delicious Vincentian chocolate (6 pics). …Lookme showed a clothes basket full of USA and EU currency (5 pics). Lalovely modelled gorgeous work wear by Shernicia Mayers (12 pics). Aimee_White_Browne had for sale a wedding dress worn once by mistake (2 pics).
Not yet in Jamaican stores, Plastered in Pretty can be sourced from www.houseof nehesipublish.com.
Book: Plastered in Pretty
Author: Natasha C. Marks
Publisher: House of Nehesi Publishers 2018
- Ann-Margaret Lim is a poet and author her book, Kingston Buttercup was amongst the Bocas Prize 2017 poetry short-list. Her books, which include The Festival Of Wild Orchid, are available at Bookophilia, amazon.com and peepaltreepress.com. Email her at email@example.com