You couldn’t cover up the smell of new money
At 26 years old, Evelyn Beegan is a late-blooming New York City society girl. Raised outside of Baltimore by a self-made wealthy family, Evelyn climbed her way up the social ladder through Prep schools, Country Clubs and Ivy League acquaintances and made it to the big city. But climbing the social ladder is a dirty business, and Evelyn soon discovers a Wharton-esque world of social responsibilities and anxieties she never could have anticipated. From sailing etiquette and debutante balls to the art of the subtle insult, Evelyn in too deep with shallow pockets.
When her father’s elite law firm is threatened along with the family bankroll, Evelyn turns a blind eye to her parents’ troubles and instead focuses on ways to make it big in NYC. She manages to wriggle her way into a circle of well-established young aristocrats, but never feels at home or at ease in their presence. Clifford writes:
She’s seen it at Sheffield, where the girls with terrific middle names that signified old family money had sailed into and out of whatever circles they wanted to, confident they would be accepted. They always were. You couldn’t cover up the smell of new money, sharp and plastic as a vinyl shower curtain just out of its case. You could try, layering old houses, old furniture, and manners that mimicked those of people who’d been living this life for centuries over it. But unless your fortune was generations old, too, it – you- would never count in the same way.
But Evelyn soon finds that her lack of provenance may work to her advantage, and thus begins the series of little white lies that soon turn into gigantic neon flashing tall tales. It isn’t ideal, but when you’re climbing the social ladder as hard and fast as Evelyn, there’s bound to be debris and casualties along the way – The kinds of things that occur in the worst nightmares of Emily Post. Evelyn’s rise to New York City glory is indeed cringeworthy, but it’s also a shocking and nauseating reminder that Clifford’s reverse-Cinderella story is a far cry from Fairy Tale for society’s One-Percenters and Page Sixers.
Soon, maintaining her demanding and increasingly fraudulent social reputation forces Evelyn and her family through a long pipeline of breaking points. It’s uncomfortable and hard to watch, but there’s something wickedly delightful about seeing ungrateful brats get bitch-slapped by reality, and Stephanie Clifford does not disappoint.
by Stephanie Clifford
St. Martin’s Press