West Girls

Laura Elizabeth Woollett

West Girls
Format
Paperback
Publisher
Scribe Publications
Country
Australia
Published
1 August 2023
Pages
256
ISBN
9781922585905

West Girls

Laura Elizabeth Woollett

‘I chose the jagged rocks, the broken bones, the spattered brains. I chose beauty. I'd choose it again.’

Luna Lewis is white. But her friends aren’t, nor are her brothers, nor her one-time Princess of Indonesia–finalist stepmother. After transforming from pudgy preteen to ‘exotic’ beauty, Luna reinvents herself as ‘Luna Lu’ and takes her ticket out of the most isolated city on earth. However, as her international modelling career approaches its expiry date, Luna must grapple with what she’s sacrificed — and who she’s become — in her mission to conquer the world.

Featuring an intersecting cast of glamour-hungry public schoolgirls, WAGs, mining heiresses, backpacker-barmaids, and cosmetic nurses, West Girls examines beauty, race, class divisions, and social mobility in Australia’s richest state. It’s also a devastating catalogue of the myriad, inventive ways in which women love and hurt one another.

Review

When we first meet Luna, she’s Luna Lewis, a Western-Australian-Maltese teen growing up in the suburbs of Perth in a school ruled by the ‘Blondes’. She’s soon reinvented: dropping the end of her name to become the ambiguously exotic Luna ‘Lu’ and catapulting herself into the glitzy world of international modelling, whatever the cost.

Laura Elizabeth Woollett’s new novel isn’t a traditional Cinderella story, but it’s doing something more than just assigning villains. Throughout the novel, we jump between the consciousnesses of different characters, allowing Woollett to survey a diverse collection of perspectives and stories in the tightly knit social web that surrounds our main character. In the visions of Australiana swollen with mining fortunes, drug abuse, WAGs and lip filler that emerge, there’s a scathing portrait of the threads of exploitation and intolerance that make up our culture.

Woollett writes with an unsentimental kind of humour that will delight and scald alternately, while maintaining an impressively deep underlying empathy. The result is smart, sordid and often quite visceral. If you’re looking for your next option after R.F. Kuang’s hotly acclaimed Yellowface, this could be a great companion read – many of the same themes are in the mixing pot, but with the welcome addition of a Real Housewives meets Wake in Fright undercurrent and a distinctly sapphic note. And if that’s not your thing, you’ll probably still love the (fictional) celebrity gossip.

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