Title: The Southern Belles
Author: Katie Simpkins
“It would have been easy, had her chest not felt like it was on fire. She felt every stride, every pound on the pavement. She was still hovering on that teary waterfall, too; still paddling to keep from falling in. That lump was still strangling her, which made running harder.”
The Southern Belles follows the story of heiresses Evelyn, Georgia, and Olivia Belle in this riches to rags story. Living their dream lives, they couldn’t want for anything, that is, until their father dies suddenly and they are stripped of everything thanks to holes in their father’s company’s finances. For the first time in their lives, the three must find jobs, and somewhere to live – but this sudden, new change for them, while at first seeming like the end of the world, is quick to teach them that money isn’t everything, and there are other things in life which will grant you happiness.
To begin with this book was perfectly alright; we learn the Belles’ story through it being read to a girl, Grace, by her grandmother, in a very “storybook” kind of way. I wasn’t a huge fan of this because it felt quite forced, but it didn’t really impact the story much, and there may be people who like this method of storytelling. Their father dies right at the beginning of the novel, so the story picks up pace right away, and from then on, we learn how the three sisters plan on getting their lives back.
I appreciate the connection the author was trying to portray with the sisters – Simpkins was eager to show their bond, and the length they would go to to help each other. However, seeing as they were supposed to be in their thirties, I did not like how they all seemed to act like teenagers, in fact, how they were portrayed in general, was not at all to my liking; they are shown to be “rich, dumb girls” which I suppose in a common trope in a lot of books, but it felt extremely one dimensional in the way it was here. Obviously in the beginning, they are not able to fend for themselves very well, but even as the novel progresses, I didn’t like how they were just finding new people (mainly men) to rely on, rather than surviving on their own.
The book had a lot of characters, and while it was often hard to keep up, it did improve the story’s authenticity, and I liked that random people kept popping out from the woodworks. It helped make the story a little more complex which aided its entertainment value.
There were a few funny moments in the book, but they always seemed to be at the expense of one of the girls, for example, when someone at the job centre asked whether Belle was spelt with an ‘e’ or without, Olivia replied “You can’t spell Belle without an E” (obviously referring to the former, rather than the latter vowel). The way they were portrayed throughout could have been done with a bit more dignity, the three sisters seemed to always be the butt of the joke, or being objectified by some other character. In a particularly vile moment, one of the characters remarks “He knew that she was a virgin, which was very attractive to him” and as this was quite early on the book, I have to say, it put me off reading the rest.
Unfortunately, this book has fallen foul to just being mediocre. The story was fine, but uneventful, the characters were different, but one dimensional, and the writing was at best, average. I think there are some people who would enjoy this book, if they’re not looking for anything complex, but for me, I won’t be racing to read it again.
Thank you to the author, Katie Simpkins, for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.