Defying Reality by Karina Mellinger - review by Molly Guinness

Molly Guinness

Stars In Their Eyes

Defying Reality


Dedalus Books 205pp £9.99

Serena Dawlish, the main character of this, Karina Mellinger’s second novel, has been voted ‘The Most Attractive Woman in a Soap’ by readers of ‘Turn Me On’ magazine for the third time, but her manager is anxious lest her fame may yet be ephemeral. He sends her to cultivate her caring persona at an adult literacy class, and signs her and her mother up for a new television show, ‘I Gave Birth to a Celebrity’, in order to exhibit her psychological complexity. This is a long shot, considering Serena has never had an emotion without motive in her life; this trait is one of the only things she has in common with her husband, a renowned Shakespearean actor, who often finds himself billed, much to his chagrin, as ‘James Marlborough – winner of six Oliviers and two Tonys and HUSBAND OF SERENA DAWLISH, STAR OF “COOMBE RIDGE CRESCENT”’. The other characteristic they share is a preposterous sense of their own importance and attractiveness, and this is an area where Mellinger excels: ‘He [James] told his agent that James Marlborough incognito is an oxymoron but she just went quiet so obviously this woman calls herself a theatrical agent and doesn’t even know what a bloody oxymoron is.’ By narrating conversations through the thoughts of the speakers Mellinger displays hilarious chasms between what is understood and what is meant.

This technique works brilliantly when it comes to the other characters and their various delusions. One of them believes in aliens, and specifically that Serena is an alien – a belief that leads to some wonderful cross-purpose dialogue.

The sense of the manufactured reality of modern celebrity provides the cue for

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