ShortBookandScribes #BookReview – The View Was Exhausting by Mikaella Clements and Onjuli Datta

Today I’m sharing my thoughts about The View Was Exhausting by Mikaella Clements and Onjuli Datta. My thanks to Headline via Amazon Vine for the proof copy of the book.

A bold, swoon-worthy and utterly modern debut novel about truth, fame and privilege – and how we love now.

Whitman ‘Win’ Tagore and Leo Milanowski are the greatest love story of our time. International movie star meets the beautiful son of a millionaire. Their kisses write headlines and their fights break the internet. Nobody needs to know it’s not real.

Win knows that Hollywood demands perfection – especially from a woman of colour.

Leo just wants to enjoy life, and shift press attention away from his dysfunctional family.

Together they control the narrative.

Except this time, on the shores of Saint-Tropez, Leo is hiding a secret that is about to send Win’s world spinning. Now everyone’s dream couple must confront the messy reality of their relationship. Just as they’re starting to realise that they might actually be falling in love…

I was drawn to The View Was Exhausting because it sounded like a hot summer celebrity novel and it is that in some ways.

Whitman Tagore is an up and coming British-Indian actress. She’s not quite the hottest stuff in town but she’s well on the way there. To help her, she has the support of Leo Milanowski, whom she calls on whenever she needs to change the narrative of what is going on in her life, for instance, when an ex is bad-mouthing her or she’s messed up and done something she shouldn’t have. Along comes Leo and they are suddenly the greatest love story of the century and Win (as Whitman is known) is on the up again. In short, their perfect on/off relationship is not real.

So far so good and this is a great premise for a novel. The problem I had is that I just couldn’t engage with it. It’s very densely written and I found myself reading and re-reading sections that I hadn’t taken in at all. I was waiting for the moment it would grab me and draw me in and it never did really that, not even towards the end, although there were some sections that I enjoyed more than others, mainly the ones when Win and Leo were together and getting on. The book kicks off amidst the glitz and glamour of St Tropez but it just felt flat to me. There was no oomph and no real sense that there was any on the way. I think it doesn’t know if it wants to be a summer bonkbuster or a serious story of the toxic nature of celebrity and the difficulties a young actress of colour faces. Either way, I struggled with the characters and the story and I so badly wanted to feel some chemistry between the main protagonists.

The View Was Exhausting was written by two authors, a married couple, and that did work well in that it felt seamless. Their writing is good and this is a thought-provoking novel that really made me think about how a good publicist can work wonders. Ultimately though, it just didn’t have the X-factor I was hoping for.

Mikaella Clements and Onjuli Datta have been writing fiction together since they first met in 2013. They are now married and live in Berlin, where they write and study. Originally from Australia, Mikaella was highly commended in the 2019 Bridport Short Story Prize and shortlisted in the 2019 Galley Beggar Press Prize. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, the TLS, and the LA Review of Books, amongst others. Onjuli is British and was longlisted in the 2020 Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize, as well as publishing non-fiction in the Billfold and Daddy Magazine.

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