What if A.S. Byatt’s Possession popped up again in the internet age? The Portrait of a Mirror answers that question with a heaping helping of Greek mythology to boot. Diana, Wes, Dale, and Vivien are spoiled obsessives staring at themselves into eternity. They are slimy people, but you know what? I don’t care! I want them to be happy in their clandestine adventures, and I want them to be miserable in their public falling outs!
Wes and Diana are married. Their relationship is a constant sparring match that neither party agrees to admit is an actual sparring match. He’s a…startup CEO? Everyone in this tale is bursting with vague hyper-privilege. Diana is also some sort of tech wizard, and her wizardy put her into the court of Dale. Dale- also some sort of tech problem solver- is working on an acquisition project for a woman named Prudence Hyman. There are many jokes about that name, and they all land. Dale is engaged to Vivien, a museum curator debuting an exhibit at The Met. Vivien and Wes were classmates in prep school. All four players are tied together by Julian, an exhausting Otho-from-Beetlejuice-esque character hellbent on embodying every stereotype he can stuff into one of his many themed tote-bags.
We are presented with star-crossed lovers wrapped in 21st corporate sabotage. Truly eclectic and eccentric individuals who have assigned themselves into the wrong roles, and now do everything in their power to ruin their own romantic and professional lives. These adults act like self-obsessed teens on the highest caliber, and it does not matter how often they quote the classics- they are sordid, steamy, and self-obsessed messes.
You may think that I am bashing these characters, this book, and this story. You are WRONG, as I LOVED it. Again- poor behavior abounds, but my goodness the foibles of these mortals couldn’t have been better orchestrated had the gods themselves intervened. Joukovsky pulls mightily from mythology, especially the story of Narcissus, but pulls just as frequently from Rocky, John Hughes movies, and memes. Anna Karenina and Flaubert cavort through college bars and hotel trysts. It’s highbrow presentation of low-brow behavior. It’s electric.
I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review