Girls in White Dresses is Jennifer Close’s debut novel and it is very impressive first book. There is no specific plot to Girls…; instead we follow the lives of Isabella and her college girlfriends across a ten year period, drifting in and out of several different characters’ perspectives, starting from when they graduate from university and begin making their way in the world as adults.
I really loved Girls in White Dresses. Looking at the cover and reading the blurb I had originally pegged it as ‘chick lit’ which I’m not generally a fan of. However, I had heard great things about it, so decided to give it a go. I finished it in two days and spent the whole time I was reading it going ‘oh my God, that’s me.’ It was the first book I’ve read about women my age that I felt reflected my own experience. Isabella (who we return to most often) and her friends Mary, Lauren, Shannon and Abby have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. Not in work, not in love and definitely not as adults. When you leave education – particularly after university when you are officially ‘a grown-up’ – people just sort of assume you’ll get it together, know what you’re doing and start building your life in a mature, responsible way. Except that, in my experience (aside from a lucky few friends) none of us had a clue about what we wanted to do, how we were going to live or who we were, even.
Girls… perfectly encapsulates that lost aimlessness that comes from figuring all that stuff out. What we all forget is that in our early twenties, we’re still babies really. We have no proper experience of anything and it’s sort of terrifying to make decisions for the rest of your life at such a young age.
Close’s writing style is reflective and intimate, moving seamlessly from one character to another sometimes within the same chapter. You feel as if you know these girls and are checking in on them, as we do with people we’ve lost touch with when we bump into them at weddings and parties. I also liked how well she covered the emotional turbulence that comes from going through massive changes in life. I don’t think this is covered enough in books; I cry at everything and I’m not the only one of my friends to do so, so I appreciated Close’s use of emotional response in the novel. I liked the way the narrative focused in on each character’s inner life – we saw their boyfriends and partners reflected through their eyes, instead of the other way round, which usually happens. I did feel like the characters talked about their other halves in a detached sort of way, which I found a bit odd, but then again, they weren’t the focus of the story. There is a sharp wit sewn in throughout (I was reminded of Sloane Crosley on more than one occasion) and I loved all the caustic one liners from Lauren, who was easily my favourite character.
This was a smart, funny and totally relatable book. It was well written, easy to read and seemed completely on point to me. I’m going to be passing it out to all my friends and I’m looking forward to reading more of Close’s work!