Oligarchy by Scarlett Thomas

Oligarchy is full of black humour and witty realisms

Book Review by Rebecca Wojturska | 06 Nov 2019
  • Oligarchy by Scarlett Thomas
Book title: Oligarchy
Author: Scarlett Thomas

Oligarchy follows Natasha, daughter of a Russian oligarch, as she moves to England to begin her studies at a boarding school. She is thrown into an echo-chamber world of social-media obsession, toxic connections and eating disorders while trying to navigate friendships, family and the often tone-deaf relationships between adults and young girls.

The central themes that haunt Oligarchy are eating disorders and diet culture. As an eating disorder survivor, I feel Thomas has perfected a balance of the hypocrisy associated with the handling of the illness and the ultimate bleakness it can present. The black humour that glues the themes together only makes it more identifiable, and provides vital commentary on diet culture. However, it is worth putting a content warning here, as the representation of eating disorders feels quite real and may be triggering for some, particularly as it’s set within a location that glamourises thinness and the strive towards it.

Oligarchy is beautifully written, with each sentence as bewitching as the last. Although focused on the lives of the privileged and wealthy, Thomas has something important to say about the potential vulnerability of young women in general, no matter your background.

Full of black humour and witty realism, Oligarchy is a dark and shimmering gem.

Canongate, 7 Nov, £14.99