Fake Like Me by Barbara Bourland — book review

Untitled drawing (2).jpgBeyond its promising summary Fake Like Me is little more than a predictable and unsatisfying ode to the female artist.

This book is not doing any favours to modern and in particular abstract art. If anything it confirms the notion that today ‘anything’ can qualify as art, and that critiques of modern art use an array of pretty metaphors that have little meaning or depth.
ps: by “modern” art I mean conceptual, installation, and performance art (made by artist of dubious talent such as Tracey Emin).

This novel should not be pegged as a suspense since there is very little tension or mystery to be found in its story. The first chapter sets an intriguing stage which is soon discarded as our mc travels to a retreat that is poorly described.
A lot of the details surrounding this place are given in a muddled manner so that I could never quite picture it in my mind. The mc spends the first 30% of the novel in a self-pitying stupor, and she becomes increasingly obsessed with Carey Logan an artist who drowned in the retreat’s lake. Apparently the two not only look alike but they are both ‘women’ so our mc obviously believes that it is them vs. the patriarchy. We are led to believe that there are only a handful of female artists (a huge lie) and that their work is therefore some sort of statement about their sex. Sure, way to embellish things…

While this book succeeds in describing the technical aspects of constructing huge canvases, it fails to actually illustrate what these pieces on the whole look like. Yes, I know the colours that our nameless protagonist has used, but what about the shapes and forms of her painting? All those pages on the products she uses, where she buys these products, and how cumbersome these materials and tools can be…all for what? To have only a vague idea of what our mc’s ‘masterpieces’ look like?

Usually I prefer slow burn reads but here the narrative really made it hard for me to remain engaged in the story. This is partly due to the narrator, whose namelessness is merely a cheap trick to convey her ‘ambiguous’ or formless identity. She was the typical solipsistic self-pitying main character who believes that she is different from other women (she is not as attractive or stylish or confident, you know the drill). Her reflections on her art and art itself were laughable and seemed to belong to a thirteen year old rather than a person in their 30s. For that matter, all of the characters sounded and acted in a way that seemed ‘young’. They act like teenagers who have had little life experiences…and the other artists and characters are never properly introduced, some have two or three lines here and there, which made them very superficial. The book is surprisingly tame and predictable yet the narrator seems to take herself and her artwork pretty—if not all too—seriously.

Overall I thought that this was a clichéd story starring an irritating mc who attributes to her work all sorts of vapid or glib metaphors.
If you are looking for a novel that beautiful portrays the struggles of an ambitious young artist I recommend Self-Portrait with Boy.

My rating: ★★✰✰✰ 2 stars

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