A Very Nice Girl

Imogen Crimp

A Very Nice Girl
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A Very Nice Girl

Imogen Crimp

Anna is struggling to afford life in London as she trains to be a singer. During the day, she vies to succeed against her course mates with their discreet but inexhaustible streams of cultural capital and money, and in the evening she sings jazz at a bar in the City to make ends meet.

It’s there that she meets Max, a financier fourteen years older than her. Over the course of one winter, Anna’s intoxication oscillates between her hard-won moments on stage, where she can zip herself into the skin of her characters, and nights spent with Max in his glass-walled flat overlooking the city.

But Anna’s fledgling career demands her undivided attention, and increasingly - whether he necessarily wills it or not - so does Max…


The last time I read a book that happened to have ‘girl’ in the title, things didn’t pan out too well for the main character. But that was a crime fiction book, and A Very Nice Girl is literature, although reader, you could be forgiven for sometimes not being able to tell the difference due to the harrowing subject matter and that niggling sense of dread that slowly sets in like coastal fog.

At the centre of this highly anticipated release is Anna: twentysomething; impoverished student yet promising operatic soprano; newly uprooted from her sheltered country upbringing (lots to unpack there). Moonlighting as a jazz chanteuse at a moody London night-spot, Anna meets Max, an older swinging dick (financier, in the parlance), in an awkward initial encounter. It doesn’t take long for the breadcrumb trail of tiny alarms to start ringing. Gradually, the pull of Max’s ‘magnetic’ personality and mysterious lifestyle begins to take a hold of Anna. But it’s okay, supposedly, because they’re not in a relationship. Or are they? Little by little, the consequences of Max’s control begin to take their toll.

The ‘bible’ of the professions of the mind, the DSM, would have a lot to say about Anna and Max. So, I wager, would acclaimed journalist Jess Hill. While this book is inspired by Jean Rhys’ 1934 novel Voyage in the Dark, and closely mirrors its plotline of a young chorus girl’s troubling relationship with an older man, Imogen Crimp has delivered a thoroughly contemporary update. This is an assured debut that doesn’t squirm away from uncomfortable topics. Crimp’s use of opera as a central theme brings a ‘meta’ layer whereby both author and main character reflect on the visceral experiences of women at the hands of douchebags. After the shame and the rebuilding is Anna’s own realisation: ‘to not mute [one’s] colour to match someone else’s’.

Julia Jackson is the assistant shop manager at Readings Carlton.

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