I’m sure most of us have been introduced to the epistolary novel at some point. Classic examples include Dracula, Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Dangerous Liasons), The Color Purple — stories told exclusively through letters between characters. This technique allows multiple viewpoints and narrators, often providing more than one version of events and truth. This was especially used to great effect in Dangerous Liasons, with each letter presenting a facet of an elaborate and devious game.
Beaumont takes the spirit of the epistolary novel and the social intricacies found in Dangerous Liasons and updates it with emails sent back and forth in Miller-Shanks, a London advertising agency.
We’re first introduced to David Crutton, CEO of the London branch, as he sends a company-wide email reminding everyone that he intends to ring in the new millennium with rousing success. Namely, he intends to land their biggest client, Coca-Cola.
Other characters soon follow: Pinki, a “hippie dipstick” copywriter who objects to everything she can. Simon, a pretentious Creative Director who lapses into French phrasing mid-email in order to bolster his own importance and sophistication. Suzi, Simon’s secretary and nosy drama queen of the highest order with an amazing superiority complex. Harriet, a master of diplomacy and tact who is attempting to keep everyone from killing each other.
There are actually more characters than I can possibly list, enough to fill an office. While it’s hard to keep up with at first (I had to keep checking the names at the top of each email for a bit) I soon eased into it and began recognizing characters just from the content of their emails. The rapid back and forth is entertaining, but the most enjoyable part is seeing just how far office politics and ass-kissing can go. One character will eviscerate another for being creative, then turn around and spin it to the CEO as an example of his skills as a mentor. Apparently Beaumont works as a copywriter, which explains his particular freakish knowledge of advertising and inter-office scheming.
Definitely recommended, especially for anyone who’s worked in an office setting. Some parts of this book will seem painfully familiar, and it’s nice to be able to step back and giggle at the nonsense.