on October 25, 2012
Source: Author Review Copy
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction
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Everything in Arabelle's life is coming together. She has confidence, great friends, she's even dating Naak, a wealthy Thai socialite. But there are too many models in Bangkok. Arabelle’s broke, she can’t find an agent in New York, and Naak isn’t as wonderful as he first appears. Slowly the Shadows creep back into Arabelle’s mind, bringing with them thoughts of hopelessness and despair. The vile Shadows know something Arabelle’s refusing to remember and, if she’s not careful, they’ll use it to destroy her. Based on a true story, Arabelle’s Shadows takes us on a journey through the struggles of growing up, not quite making it as an international model, and attempting to overcome a crushing depression.
Australia’s Next Top Model is one of my guilty pleasures, filled with bitching, backstabbing and all these wannabe young models fighting for a place in the glamourous modelling industry. Perhaps that’s why I chose to review Arabelle’s Shadows, which is about modelling, written by a previous fashion model. The book is based on a true story, which looks like it’s modeled after the author’s own life.
The novel opens with Arabelle talking about dating a guy named Naak. She’s currently in Bangkok for her modelling career which is actually quite successful there, being a Caucasian model in an Asian country. She soon finds out that Naak was actually stringing her along as he actually has a girlfriend who is out of the country. I thought that would be the end of him, but even until its final pages does Arabelle obsess, pine and go after Naak in a self-destructive pattern for approval. I was sick of hearing of Naak by the end of it, and hearing about how men have done the same in the past made for a very sad story.
Told in three time periods, the present in 2004, 1998 in high school and the travelling years, we get an insight as to how Arabelle got there and her happiest years travelling. The travelling years were my favourite, as we see Arabelle’s modelling career take her from New Zealand, to Australia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Korea, Amsterdam, Paris and a few other countries. I loved hearing about these cultures and the life of a model. What you see on TV and in magazines is just the glamorous part, but Arabelle does struggle and persevere through some very difficult years with barely enough money to eat or pay rent.
Being a sufferer of chronic depression, Arabelle talks about a person’s shadows that can consume you and make you think negative thoughts. A large portion of the novel is dedicated to Arabelle’s suffering, and I found the negative self-talk, suicidal thoughts, and pure hate of one’s self to be way too depressing for me. Arabelle takes drugs, smokes, cuts, drinks and parties to silence her shadows, which crop up whenever she’s not surrounded by friends or getting many modelling jobs. I nearly stopped reading the book but persevered through the sheer crushing weight of what she was going through. I found it frustrating how she would appear to get on top of her depression once she was doing well in her career, but it would start to overtake her again and she’d start to get insecure and depressed, and there never seemed to be greener grass for Arabelle.
Arabelle seems to be very fickle which frustrated me, she doesn’t know whether she likes men or women, whether she wants to stay or go in each country, and get up and leaves whenever she’s not getting enough jobs in a particular country. By the end of the novel, she even decides that modelling might not be for her and that she might pursue acting instead.
While this book isn’t quite the usual type of book I read, I think it’s important for a reader to expand one’s limits so you can peer into many perspectives and lives. Arabelle’s Shadows wasn’t a bad book by any stretch, but it was definitely one of the most depressing ones I’ve ever read – and knowing that it’s based on a true story is even worse. Like real life, there’s ups and downs, moments of inspiration, negative feelings, a time where people come and go. Perhaps that’s what made it a difficult read, I wanted Arabelle to find happiness, zen, success and to overcome her depression and the ending was too subtle for me. Others who are going through a similar time in their lives, who can relate to Arabelle or are looking for some spiritual awareness would enjoy this read more, but unfortunately it wasn’t for me.
I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. Keep in mind my rating is my personal opinion of the novel, based on how difficult it was to get through for me.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5