‘Trusting you was my first mistake.’
To Katherine, twenty-four-year-old Lily Lunt is a typical ‘snowflake’. Soft, entitled, unflaggingly earnest, the privileged, politically correct millennial will do whatever she can to make it big as a writer, including leveraging her family’s connections. She’s got it easy. To Lily, Katherine Ross, a career woman in her early forties, is a holdover from another era: clueless, old-fashioned, and perfectly happy to build her success on the backs of her unpaid interns.
When Lily is hired as the new intern at Leadership magazine, where Katherine is editor in chief, her arrival threatens the very foundations of the self-serving little world that Katherine has built. But before long, she finds herself obsessively drawn to Lily, who seems to be a cruel reminder of the beauty and potential Katherine once had, things she senses Lily plans to use against her. Is Katherine simply paranoid, jealous of Lily’s youth as she struggles with encroaching middle age? Is Lily just trying to get ahead in the cutthroat world of publishing? Or is there a more sinister motivation at play, fuelled by the dark secrets they are both hiding? As their rivalry deepens, a disturbing picture emerges of two women pitted against each other across a toxic generational divide – and who are desperate enough to do anything to come out on top.
As unsettling as it is provocative, Precious You cuts to heart of questions surrounding modern female rivalry, obsession and deceit. Helen Monks Takhar delivers an explosive take on the contemporary workplace and the disparate generations that power it, turning the professional roles women play on their heads in a razor-sharp, revenge-driven thriller for our age.
You can read this book in two different ways. You can simply regard it as another psychological thriller featuring two main female protagonists or a protagonist and an antagonist, depending on whose shoes you are standing in, but if that is all you may be disappointed.
Or you can see it as something much deeper. A power struggle between two women who should have been helping and supporting each other in the male-dominated world of publishing. Two successful women. But no. This is a story about jealousy and obsession. And nepotism. To what extent will Lily’s Aunt Gemma turn a blind eye to Lily’s behaviour? She is ready to throw what should have been her ally in Katherine under a bus in order to protect Lily and push her to the top. Even though she knows what she’s done in the past. But this is also about rivalry. Gemma’s attempt to undermine Lily’s mum and show her how much more successful Lily can be with Gemma as her mentor.
Gemma says Katherine has become stale and Lily can help her writing by going to ‘copy camps’. Katherine is insulted and justifiably so. Many of us would have walked out at that point with heads held high. Or as Katherine would say ‘fuck it’.
But is this work-related competition all there is to it? This is personal and we need to know why. And just who is Ruth?
Katherine, however, is just as bad. She and partner of 20 years, Iain, have had an ‘open’ relationship. They can sleep with whoever they like so long as the other partner approves of their choices. We all know this will lead to trouble when Lily comes along. Katherine has used her interns as bed partners for years, including poor Asif, about whom she makes a racist slur to Lily. Big mistake as it will follow her wherever she goes. Lily’s generation don’t approve of ‘banter’ but then neither should they.
Katherine and Iain drink far too much. They think getting drunk is some kind of weird glue that keeps them together. Along with the lines of cocaine and the freedom they give each other. It’s killing them both but they can’t see it.
I became so invested in this book I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. I am not in my 40s or a millennial. I don’t really drink and I’ve never taken cocaine. I am a Baby Boomer born in the 1950s. We thought we had invented feminism. Us women in a battle against the patriarchy. I still believe that so I find this all rather sad. Katherine has turned everything we stood for on its head. It wasn’t, for us anyway, about being able to sleep around (the pill gave us freedom but that’s not the same thing as using people for sex or power) or drink till we fall down or push the younger generations out of the way. It was about women. Always about women.
I would have given this five stars apart from three things. Too much swearing till it really grated on me. One scene that was go gross and I’m not sure was necessary. And the degree of bitterness which I hope is not a reflection on Generation X. Stuck between us ‘over-privileged’ Baby Boomers and ‘snowflake’ millennials. All very interesting.
Many thanks to The Pigeonhole, my fellow Pigeons and the author for making this such an enjoyable read.
About the author
Helen Monks Takhar worked as a journalist, copywriter and magazine editor having graduated from Cambridge in 1997. She began her career writing for financial trade newspapers in 1999 before contributing to UK national newspapers including The Times and The Observer. Born in Southport, Merseyside in 1976, she lives in North London with her husband and two daughters. Precious You is her first novel.