Once upon a time in the mid-20th century, there was an Oscar-winning movie called All About Eve, which was a huge hit. About twenty years later, it morphed into a smash Tony-winning musical called Applause. And now a fashion industry insider named Lucy Sykes and an author named Jo Piazza have written The Knockoff, a 21st century tale that harkens right back to the classic villainous themes in All About Eve but with a modern digital twist. This twist, thankfully, also contains a lot of wry humor. I couldn’t wait to read it and have been dying to share it with you. If you liked The Devil Wears Prada and you’re looking for a fun vacation read, this is one you’ll definitely want to consider. Ambition, greed, betrayal – as Lauren Bacall said in the beginning of Applause, “Fasten your seat belts; it’s going to be a bumpy night.”
As editor-in-chief of Glossy magazine, forty-two-year-old Imogen Tate is an icon in the fashion industry. She built the magazine into an international success. Every designer would kill to have a spread in its pages and every woman on the planet relies on it as a guide for how to be chic and on trend. Imogen has the private numbers of the luminaries in the fashion world on speed dial. In short, Imogen is fashion, pure and simple. It’s her life – she eats, sleeps, and breathes fashion.
It almost kills her when she has to take six months off for medical reasons, but she prepped the magazine in advance so everything would flow seamlessly while she was away. Now she can’t wait to get back to work, to make Glossy even better. After all, Glossy is like her child – it’s everything to her. She guesses she shouldn’t be that surprised the company brought in her former executive assistant, Eve Morton, to help things flow better temporarily while Imogen was away. Eve left the magazine to get an MBA at Harvard so Imogene is surprised to see she’s back. Still, bringing Eve back in as an assistant makes sense because she knows the magazine, even though it wasn’t necessary.
“At first, Imogen didn’t recognize the girl twirling around in her chair taking a picture of her own magenta Tory Burch flats and matching fingernails…Imogen smoothed her fine blond hair behind her ears and gave a confident click with her right heel so the girl, now pouting into the phone’s camera to take a selfie, would know she wasn’t alone in the corner office.
‘Oh.’ Eve Morton, Imogen’s former assistant, snapped to attention, startled. The phone clattered to the floor. A note of surprise rose in Eve’s husky voice as she glanced over Imogen’s shoulder to see if anyone else was behind her. ‘You’re back?’…Why was Eve sitting at the desk of the editor-in-chief? Imogen’s desk…Eve had been an extraordinarily competent assistant and for all intents and purposes, a friend, but this was an irritating distraction on her first day back at work. All Imogen wanted was to get settled before the rest of the staff arrived.”
What she doesn’t expect is to find that Eve has taken over her office as if she now owns the place and morphed the magazine into an office that bears very little resemblance to Imogen’s home away from home. How dare she? But wait, it gets better. Eve has been tasked with creating a web presence for the magazine and, in doing so, has been given a lot of latitude. As acting editor, Eve, has taken it upon herself to fire older staff members and actually had the nerve to move the print magazine’s managing editor’s office to the janitor’s closet.
“Perhaps cracking a joke would speed the process along. ‘As long as the redesign has nothing to do with my magazine and’ – she hoped to make a point – ‘as long as they haven’t given away my office.’
Eve blinked in confusion, eyelash extensions flickering like hummingbird wings.
’ I think you need to talk to Carter, Imogen.’ It was strange to hear a vaguely authoritative tone in Eve’s twenty-six-year-old voice, and odder still for her to address their boss, Carter Worthington, by his first name. All at once, Imogen could feel her heart begin to beat faster again. She had been right the first time. Eve was not just working on the website. Imogen worried for a moment that Eve, who had once been so good at anticipating her every need, could read her mind right now.”
Eve has brought in a lot of interns fresh out of school – young girls who do social media and internet related marketing for the new digital magazine. Imogen is horrified to see them paying no attention in business meetings while tweeting furiously, as if their very lives depended on it. She doesn’t recognize the place anymore. It now looks more like a white-collar factory than a fashion magazine. The interns stay up for days with no sleep, trying to meet their quotas. Anyone who falls asleep is automatically fired. Anyone whose results don’t shine online gets fired. It’s a nightmare. The strain on the interns is obvious to Imogen and she’s appalled. How could things go so horribly wrong in only six months?
Even worse, Imogen is a technophobe – no two ways about it. She has resisted computers from the beginning, thinking they couldn’t have anything to do with her creative world of high fashion. Because of that she hasn’t seen the growth or been aware of just how powerful the internet has become. Now she’s suddenly hit in the face with the realization that she is becoming completely irrelevant and the magazine is fast on its way to being completely destroyed. But what can she do?
How did this happen? And how on earth is she going to get tech savvy fast enough to prevent Eve from destroying the magazine she loves so much? Should she just give up and pass it on to the next generation – hell to the no. She’s not done yet and she’s determined to fight. At the same time, she’s terrified she’s waited too late. What can she do?
Imogen is a highly successful manager who gets things done but still believes in kindness. She’s a force to be reckoned with but it’s normally a force for good. Eve is a nasty piece of work. She rules by fear and is completely ruthless. Vicious, backstabbing, and willing to walk over anyone’s body to get what she wants – that’s our Eve – a classic predator. Now, obviously each of these women is more complex than that but those are the good vs. evil basics upon which this novel relies.
I saw Applause on Broadway and it gave me chills. I think it’s the perfect premise for a fashion industry novel and, luckily, the authors have infused a lot of humor into The Knockoff to help balance out the backbiting vicious thread. I think it will appeal to any woman who has worked or is working in corporate life. What about men? Should they read it? Well, if you guys like a good cat fight then go for it! It’s exactly the kind of book I like to take on vacation. It’s a pretty quick read and has enough drama in it to keep me entertained while also providing snarky humor to even things out. Sound interesting?
Can’t wait to read it?
The Knockoff was published on May 19, 2015, so it’s available in all formats from your favorite online bookseller below (or in the right column for iBooks). If you download it as an e-book, you’ll have it to read immediately. Booyah!
I’d love to get your comments on The Knockoff, Lucy Sykes and/or Jo Piazza and/or their other work, and/or this review. [Whoa – that’s way too many and/or’s. 😉 ]
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