Beauty Tips for Girls, by Margaret Montgomery, is a novel about three women, society’s expectations, loneliness and the challenges which all ages must face when coping with day to day life.
Katy Clemmy is the beautiful and talented teenage daughter of a farmer and an alcoholic mother. To help her through her isolated life she turns to Misty magazine with its fashion and beauty obsessed, bitchy advice columns. She sees herself as overweight and ugly. In the primal battleground of her small town school she suffers the usual verbal attacks from her peers which continuously erode her self esteem.
Katy’s English teacher, Jane, has reached middle age without finding the husband and family she grew up expecting to have. She wonders how her life has turned out this way, blaming her mother for decisions made for her when she was young. When Katy disappears Jane reluctantly becomes involved with the Clemmy family’s problems, seeing in Katy traits which she recognises in herself.
Corinne is Katy’s mother. Pained and unhappy she drowns her feelings in alcohol, seeking oblivion. Corinne narrates her story from the future, her past being a disastrous blur of bad choices, tragedy and destructive behaviour.
As these three women tell their interwoven tales we gain an insight into the inner lives of an angst ridden teenager, an addict and a disillusioned teacher. The author has done a fantastic job of getting inside her character’s heads and showing the reader how each are thinking and feeling. The writing is funny, perceptive, entertaining and considerate.
I absolutely loved the meeting between Jane and the cosmetic surgeon. Their mutual inability to comprehend the other’s point of view was brilliantly portrayed. The book is full of such insights. Each character, major and minor, is presented fully rounded and with all their quirks and preconceptions providing humour in what is a poignant tale.
The inclusion of the articles from Misty magazine, the advertisements and To Do lists, all helped convey how influenced Katy was by these windows into a wider world of skewed priorities. The male teacher’s attitudes added resonance whilst the inclusion of environmentally friendly Dan showed that not all men are so shallow. It was not just the men of course. The cosmetic surgeon’s view of the world was perpetuated by the female clients with whom he spent his working days.
The underlying messages conveyed were all too painfully real but this adds to the power of what remains an entertaining read. Never preachy but truly thought provoking I would recommend this book to everyone who dreams of being more beautiful.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Cargo.