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Saturday, September 3, 2022


“The central question becomes, what is the truth, whose truth matters, and the impacts on people’s lives that one’s truths have. Sounds odd, but yes, thought provoking stuff.”  (Review by Christine E Hann)

Idol is the first of Louise O’Neill’s books that I have read. Given the comments from several respected authors on the book’s cover, I was in high hopes for this read. Did I enjoy the book? Well, to be fair, not really. Was it topical, thought-inspiring, uncomfortable at times? Yes, indeed it was all those things and more. Does it have its place in modern literature? Perhaps. But would I want to read it again? (as I do so many of my favourite authors’ books.)

The story is about Samantha Miller, a 39-year-old lifestyle and wellness internet influencer, who has millions of followers on her various social streams. Her “girls”, as she refers to them, wait for and endlessly follow her constant updates, essays, events and books. All of this is supported by a huge team of marketing persons, and a backing company, ironically with a board of white only male directors. (Interesting comment on life as it still is in many countries.).

Sam’s pages and dialogue reflect that she has been through all the expected angst, difficult childhood, relationships, drugs, food issues, abuse, and some questionable choices to date. She is viewed as inspirational, an influencer of note.

What this book does is to showcase the impacts of social media on people’s lives. Sam has just launched a new book called Chaste, about making selective, careful chaste choices with people, a far cry from her original be free, experience life rhetoric. But she has also just written an essay about a sexual experience with a childhood best friend she names L.

L does not take kindly to this and responds publicly saying she was bullied and abused by Sam, that this was just not true, and how dare she do this. In response and in pursuit of proving that “her truth” Is real, Sam heads back to her old hometown. What ensues is a difficult and somewhat nasty trip through the past, and the present as well. The reader soon realises that all is not well with Sam or even L herself.

The central question becomes, what is the truth, whose truth matters, and the impacts on people’s lives that one’s truths have. Sounds odd, but yes, thought-provoking stuff. Sam wreaks a whole lot of havoc, much as she did in her youth, before the book reaches its final climax. Does good overcome? Did old friend Becky stand for what was right and defend L? And what can one say of Sam’s followers, and her rapidly-spiralling fall from grace? 

The book is at times an uncomfortable commentary on the impacts of social cultures, and their ability to enhance or wreak havoc on an influencer, their families and friends, and their followers’ lives. It also speaks to the matter of consent. Tough topics, but did the author do them justice? In my view, it could have been a much stronger, more impactful read.

Louise O’Neill is an Irish-based writer who was born just outside of West Cork. Louise contributes to Irish TV and radio broadcasts and has a weekly column in an Irish newspaper. Her first two novels were young adult novels, Idol is her third adult targeted novel. Louise’s works are critically acclaimed in her country of birth, where she has won awards for her writing. Some of the other books by the same author: Almost Love. After the Silence. - Christine E Hann

Idol is published by Penguin Random House UK – 2022:  ISBN: 978-1-7876-3534-0