The Year of Living Famously by Laura Caldwell is about Kyra, an aspiring clothes designer, and her husband, Declan, an actor whose career takes both him and Kyra into the world of celebrity.
This is a book I picked up when I was a teenager and thought I needed to move away from young adult fiction. These aren’t the types of books I’d describe as being my typical type, more something that I read in summer when it’s too hot to read anything serious. I enjoyed Caldwell’s writing and thought she does well to demonstrate the pressures of fame, including the loss of privacy. Kyra and Declan begin to suspect a member of staff is leaking stories to the press, they way they confront their staff and the consequences of this atmosphere of mistrust is brilliantly believable.
One of the most convincing characters in the novel is Amy Rose, a stalker who believes she is in a relationship with Declan. When Kyra and Declan travel to Ireland to visit his family she even refers to them as ‘our family’. Although this plotline reached a resolution a little too easily for me it did add a needed edge to the story.
Caldwell also attempts to show how Declan’s growing stardom results in him being away for work more and more often, and how this affects the marriage. However, I wasn’t too invested in the marriage in the first place – which is problematic as their relationship is the central plot point. There was something about Kyra and Declan that I didn’t feel was believable. They get married fast, but then my own parents got engaged after knowing each other 6 weeks so I’m not against that. Some of their interactions were a bit too polite, perhaps, and the fact they spent little time together didn’t help to create a believable, strong relationship.
One of the drawbacks when I reread it was that it hasn’t aged particularly well. Whilst the story still applies today, the novel (published several years ago now) and its depiction of life in the fast lane isn’t on par with the even faster life of celebrity today. With no twitter or snapchat it feels aged, rather than being transported back a few years. After all, wouldn’t Kyra be posting images of her new designs on Instagram and staying up at night to read the comments, getting upset when someone was negative?
The novel is good, but it wouldn’t be the first thing I recommend to a friend. Partly due to my personal genre preferences, but also due to the way it has aged. Overall, it was a good read, but did remind me a little of some of the more recent Shopaholics (or perhaps that should be the Shopaholics reminded me of TYOLF), and I personally prefer Kinsella’s humour and character creation.