By now you’ve probably gotten wind of Everybody Rise, the debut novel from award-winning New York Times reporter Stephanie Clifford. Personally, I was excited to read it after People Magazine named it one of the 12 best summer books. But then when I heard the producer of The Devil Wears Prada picked up the film rights, I had a copy of it in my hands 48 hours later. (The book hit newsstands August 18).
Set in pre-stock market crash 2007 when Wall Street and America’s 1% were at their 1%-iest, the novel takes a close look at a small group of friends among the country’s upper class as they jaunt around New York City and the nearby playgrounds frequented by America’s royalty (think lakeside Adirondack camps, Hamptons beach houses, New England prep schools, et al).
I was excited to delve into this almost academic-like reflection of a world I’ve only ever seen glimpses of… you know in movies like Mona Lisa Smile, TV shows like Gossip Girl, and Instagram accounts like those of KJP or Olivia Palermo. And it delivers exactly what was expected from the book’s opening scene—aptly a preparatory school lacrosse tailgate complete with crystal stemware and pâté to the story’s climax at a New York City debutante ball where social etiquette, designer clothing, and the right kind of conversation reign supreme.
“Your pearl earrings are rather worn down. They’re starting to look like molars,” Barbara Beegan said to her daughter, poking with a cocktail knife at pâté that was so warmed by the sun that it was nearly the consistency of butter.
So the book begins, introducing us to the overbearing, critical, social-climbing mother of Evelyn, our 26-year-old heroine and we quickly witness the pressures and lifestyle Evelyn grew up in. And while readers learn the Beegan family is quite well off in Maryland (father has had a successful career as an attorney), it doesn’t hold a candle to the tier of the high society Barbara wants for her daughter. Hence Evelyn was sent to the prestigious Sheffield Academy at the age of 14 to start mingling with the “right” kind of crowd. She was successful, meeting two friends she is still close with in 2007 (Preston and Charlotte) both with the right family names and bank accounts but exceptionally down-to-earth and inclusive (truth be told, neither of them care at all about social status or lack there of).
Despite growing up in her mother’s household, we meet the 26-year-old Evelyn: She has a good head on her shoulders, she’s financially independent (for the most part), she has solid friendships and is embarking on a new job at the social media start-up People Like Us (an exclusive Facebook type site for the upper echelon of the world). Her role? Recruitment. In other words, make the most of your Sheffield connections and start getting New York’s high society to join the site. In order to excel in her role, Evelyn identifies key players of the city’s social scene, namely NYC It Girl Camilla Rutherford, and before long finds herself doing exactly what her mother always wanted: becoming part of their world.
The book takes us from lavish dinner parties at Manhattan’s social clubs and boating races around Lake James in the Adirondacks to Evelyn’s fluorescent-lit desk at her dreary start-up and her crumbling family life in Maryland where her father is facing indictment. Within a year, Evelyn is practically living two lives: Her friendships, finances, and career are tested as she climbs the social ladder toward a world she never knew she wanted, leaving her old life crumbling behind her.
We see surprising changes in the heroine (you go from loving her to kind of hating her, or at least I did) and the tension and build-up of ‘how is this going to end’ never subsides… even to the last page, where if I do say so myself, leaves a wonderful opening for a sequel. How does this same group fair in 2008, I wonder, after the market on which their entire lives are supported collapses? We’ll have to wait and see if Clifford delivers.
Have you read Everybody Rise? What did you think?
This post was sponsored by St. Martin’s Press but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.