I’m not much of a film buff – books are (evidently) much more my thing, but on the rare occasion that I do settle in for a night on the sofa with a movie, my favourite sort are the slightly sinister ones. What Lies Beneath, The Hand that Rocked the Cradle, Hush, Fatal Attraction and Single White Female are my go-tos, and so as soon as I read about The New Girl by Harriet Walker; a debut described as reading ‘like The Devil Wears Prada meets Single White Female.’ I knew I wanted to read it. My parents recently visited me in Sydney, and my mother came armed with a pile of books that I’d been sent back in the UK, and so soon after they arrived I got stuck into reading it.
A taut and tense debut, The New Girl follows Margot, a stylish, happily married fashion editor who appears to have it all – to the outside world at least. When she falls pregnant, and is subsequently tasked with finding her maternity replacement, she chooses Maggie. A less worldly writer who initially doesn’t pose a threat to Margot, all this changes when Maggie’s confidence is boosted as she begins to make the role her own, and Margot soon finds herself riddled with anxiety over her future at Haute Magazine.
Meanwhile, Winnie – Margot’s childhood best friend – is also pregnant, and, when the unthinkable happens, their once firm-friendship starts to crumble under the very foundations on which it’s built.
Fusing society’s heavy reliance on social media with a plot that is both pacy and rich with tension and a cast of unreliable and flawed characters, The New Girl is suspenseful and stylish writing at its very best.
About The New Girl
How far would someone go to replace you? A new mother on maternity leave grows increasingly paranoid about her ambitious young temp in this Hitchcockian debut from the fashion editor at The Times (UK) .
Margot is the object of every woman’s envy: as an editor at Haute, she has a glamorous job, a beautiful new baby girl, a seemingly perfect life. But when Margot’s lifelong friend, Winnie, loses her own newborn boy, their shared dream of pushing strollers together turns to ash. And then there is the matter of Margot’s maternity temp: bright, plucky, ambitious Maggie–the young woman Margot chose, but who now seems to be trying to eclipse her in every possible way.
When a cyber-stalker emerges, mocking Margot’s façade of perfection and threatening to expose a dark secret she’s spent years repressing, Margot feels attacked from all sides. Soon, the innocent preoccupations of motherhood spiral quickly–and perhaps lethally–into a frightening and irretrievable paranoia.
The New Girl is whiplash-paced, and a harrowing look into the profound sense of insecurity that prowls deep in the psyches of women everywhere.
About Harriet Walker
Harriet Walker is the fashion editor of The Times. She covers social and sartorial trends and has been a broadsheet journalist for more than a decade. Her books Less is More: the History of Minimalism in Fashion and Cult Shoes are published by Merrell and her novel The New Girl is out in May 2020.
I loved this piece by Harriet Walker on embracing Tudor fashion, and this was a fun read on returning to work after having a baby. Finally, if you like your fiction with a splash of sinister, here are some of fiction’s best single white females.
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