The View Was Exhausting by Mikaella Clements & Onjuli Datta

Never mind the view, this whole misbegotten year has been exhausting. I don’t know about you but lockdown after lockdown has scrambled my hidden wiring into a truly cursed tangle of nerves, anxiety and emotions, so I was relieved and grateful when this clever, delicious modern romance came my way.

Whitman ‘Win’ Tagore and Leo Milanowski are your classic on-again-off-again celebrity couple: the paps scramble to cover their every outing causing social media to froth with speculation – their most ardent fans even have a catchphrase: ‘true love wins’. (Wins what exactly, no one knows.) Of course, it’s all a very carefully and deliberately planned charade, a way for Win to control and cultivate her star persona. Studio head says she’s not ‘wild’ enough for a role? Call Leo up for a few weeks of partying in LA. Need to get the media off the scent of her break-up? Enter Leo for some yacht-side frolicking on the Riviera. Producers seed a rumour she’s ‘difficult’? Time for some tipsy shenanigans at the Met Gala. It’s not that Win is some type-A control freak. As an actress of colour in the unforgiving film industry where impressions can make or break a casting, she knows she can’t put a foot wrong, and she’s not so naïve to believe she can rely on the media or the public to create a sympathetic narrative for her.

This friends-to-enemies-to-lovers story is a compulsively addictive confection with some real soul to it. Clements and Datta know their rom-com tropes and beats inside out and they fondly play with those expectations without ever losing sight of that almost physically painful yearning every good romance should evoke. I loved how thoughtful Win’s negotiations with her career and her family are: the cost of her gritted-teeth determination to prove industry naysayers wrong, and the realistically frayed relationship she has with her mother. Despite the glitz and glam of the set-up, Win and Leo’s agreement feels plausible, and the authors are wise to the constructed calibration of celebrity narratives. If you’re the kind of person who listens to the Who? Weekly podcast or are invested in the saga of Bennifer 2.0, then you will delight in the knowing winks the authors gleefully throw your way. And if you want something to buoy you through the bleak Melbourne midwinter, you can’t go wrong with this effervescent, sparkling cocktail of a book.

Jackie Tang is the editor of Readings Monthly.

Cover image for The View Was Exhausting

The View Was Exhausting

Mikaella Clements, Onjuli Datta

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