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The Crack Magazine



Scarlett Thomas, Canongate

We don’t come across any oligarchs in Scarlett Thomas’s deliciously dark and funny new novel, but we do meet Natasha, the 15-year-old daughter of a shady Russian who arrives at an English boarding school armed with a black Amex card. She receives intermittent pieces of advice from her worldly-wise and eccentric Aunt Sonja, but mostly she’s left to fend for herself in a strange new world populated by other girls from privileged backgrounds. Thomas steers the loose narrative away from anything resembling a boring old lesson, instead focusing on what really matters to these girls: sex, drinking and, most important of all, body shape. If these girls discussed physics or chemistry as much as they did faddy diets then they would all be up for Nobel prizes. Part ‘Heathers’ and part Alan Warner’s ‘The Sopranos’, ‘Oligarchy’ reads like ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ for the Instagram generation.