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Oligarchy

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3.67  ·  Rating details ·  129 ratings  ·  52 reviews
When Natasha, daughter of a Russian oligarch, arrives for her first day at an all-girl boarding school, she finds herself thrown into a world of fierce pecking orders, eating disorders and Instagram angst, the synopsis reads. Then her friend Bianca mysteriously vanishes, and the world of the school gets ever darker and stranger.
Hardcover
Published November 7th 2019 by Canongate
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  • Oligarchy by Scarlett Thomas
    Oligarchy
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    Release date: Jun 14, 2020
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    Community Reviews

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    Average rating 3.67  · 
    Rating details
     ·  129 ratings  ·  52 reviews


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    Ceecee
    Oct 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    I have been a fan of the author for a long time as I think she is very original, her books are always sharply observed and humorous. ‘Oligarchy’ is classic Scarlett Thomas in that it pulls no punches but this thought provoking and dark tale is embedded in black humour which I love. This is a book about power and control and there several different ways that the girls we meet in the book are controlled.

    The central character is Natasha, who is Russian and the daughter of an oligarch. She is sent
    ...more
    Ellie
    Nov 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Scarlet Thomas can certainly write! Years ago, I read her books PopCo and the End of Mr. Y. Such different books--but each wonderful in their own way. Each of Thomas' books are unique; she doesn't repeat herself and Oligarchy is no exception. Quirky and fascinating, the story centers on Natasha, a Russian high school student just beginning (a week late) in an English boarding school.

    The major focus at this school seems to be food--and eating disorders. Thomas looks at how adolescent girls look
    ...more
    Steffi ~mereadingbooks~
    What did I just read?
    Who is this book for?

    Thomas is one of my favourite authors ever... But this was so disappointing.

    First Shannon, then Bardugo, now Thomas. It has been a bad year for my most anticipated releases.
    Susan
    Nov 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    I have been a fan of Scarlett Thomas since reading her very first novel, so I was delighted to receive her latest, for review.

    This is nothing like her previous novels, but a clever, darkly humorous, look at the lives of a group of girls at a private, girls boarding school. Our main character is Natasha (Tash) the daughter of a Russian oligarch, who is packed off, as though on a whim, to study in the UK. Tash is beautiful, rich and privileged, like the other girls in her dorm. Like them, she is
    ...more
    David Harris
    Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    I'm grateful to Canongate for a free advance e-copy of Oligarchy via Netgalley, to consider for review. (Quotes below come from that copy, and may not reflect the final text).

    'Sometimes she also prays for peace, and joy, and to be thin. Sometimes she even prays for the villagers, that they might become thin too.'

    The thing - one of many things - I like about Scarlett Thomas's books is that they always give something unexpected. There is no "just" to them. They are all recognisably hers, but they
    ...more
    Sayantoni Das
    Nov 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    Natasha is the daughter of a Russian oligarch who is sent off to a boarding school in classic London. She shares her dorm with girls alike : young, naive and privileged. When you gradually read, you'll notice this ain't the ideal hostel you'd want to end up in. Enveloped in antiquity, the environment is nothing like that of a cheerful mien. And if you read carefully, you'll find it rather ominous and menacing in a way that cannot be described by mere words. It's like the saying, "there's ...more
    Contrary Reader
    Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    I don’t have words at the moment. This book is astonishing. Must read stuff- it is a polished diamond with many sparkling faces.
    xueh wei
    Jul 01, 2019 rated it liked it
    Shelves: gifted
    Finished! What the hell did I just read lmao.

    TW: eating disorders

    Thank you #pansing / Definitely Books for this interesting read!
    Ellie
    Nov 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: fiction
    Scarlet Thomas can certainly write! Years ago, I read her books PopCo and the End of Mr. Y. Such different books--but each wonderful in their own way. Each of Thomas' books are unique; she doesn't repeat herself and Oligarchy is no exception. Quirky and fascinating, the story centers on Natasha, a Russian high school student just beginning (a week late) in an English boarding school.

    The major focus at this school seems to be food--and eating disorders. Thomas looks at how adolescent girls look
    ...more
    Ceecee
    Oct 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    I have been a fan of the author for a long time as I think she is very original, her books are always sharply observed and humorous. ‘Oligarchy’ is classic Scarlett Thomas in that it pulls no punches but this thought provoking and dark tale is embedded in black humour which I love. This is a book about power and control and there several different ways that the girls we meet in the book are controlled.

    The central character is Natasha, who is Russian and the daughter of an oligarch. She is sent
    ...more
    Blair
    Nov 19, 2019 marked it as dnf-arcs  ·  review of another edition
    I had wondered if Thomas's recent obsession with women's bodies and weight loss was something my interpretation was magnifying. Then I read this piece she wrote for the Guardian and realised that no, it really is there. Sadly, even more apparent here than it was in The Seed Collectors - there's something about fat or diets on almost every page. There may well be great things about Oligarchy but there's no way I'm putting myself through the incessant weight and self-image talk to find them. Her ...more
    Amber
    Sep 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
    Digital arc from edelweiss.

    This one didn’t work for me. It felt like the story was trying too hard for that “wow” factor. Ultimately, it’s one I’ll walk away from without retaining any lasting memories of it.
    Alyssia Cooke
    This is a darkly different novel, it's tone contrasting strangely with the dry humour throughout. To begin with it would be easy to consider this a young adult, but I think that would be a mistake. Set at a girl's boarding school, Oligarchy delves deeply into the disordered minds of teenage girls and just how easily the human mind can be manipulated. The focus is very much on eating disorders as this group of rich, isolated girls compete with each other to be the thinnest, the smallest, the ...more
    Daren Kearl
    Oct 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Oligarchy is a pretty dark tale set in a private girl's boarding school. I enjoyed the humorous viewpoint of the girls, bored and completely isolated from reality. The obsession with having the thinnest body, led by fashion and Instagram selfies, is the main focus of the short novel. I'm not sure whether the issue is treated with the sensitivity that it could be - it's a serious mental health problem, after all - but it does highlight the group competitiveness and ways in which young women can ...more
    Dominika
    Nov 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
    What has happened to one of my favourite contemporary writers? Sure, there are some very witty sentences in there, but nothing more. There is contempt for all characters, subplots don’t add to much. Overall the readers and the writer are not invested the characters... who is this for? Why??
    Kirsty
    Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    An intricate black jewel of a novel. Weeks later I’m still thinking about it.
    emmy
    Nov 14, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: ya, dnf, thriller
    This book wasn't for me. It is a very raw account of disordered eating and unhealthy social structures in a boarding school in London, as seen through the eyes of the daughter of a Russian oligarch. Came off to me as very harsh and difficult to read.
    Nora
    Oct 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
    A dark, sometimes funny, sometimes disturbing, and thought-provoking read: female friendships, competing types of power, the male gaze, and the contradictions of girlhood all coalesce at an English boarding school of dubious quality and more secrets than is good for it. I’m not sure how I felt about the story itself (too heightened in some places, too flippant in others?) but I definitely enjoyed the writing and Thomas’s turns of phrase: expressing the protagonist’s frustration, she writes, “to ...more
    Alma
    Nov 01, 2019 rated it did not like it
    I did NOT like this book, but forced myself to keep going because I had to review it. If you want a book that endlessly repeats the same problems, without any solutions, then this is for you. I’m unhappy I wasted so much time slogging through it...Keep reading on my blog to see why I gave this book just one star. https://shouldireaditornot.wordpress....
    Amanda
    Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
    I'm so sorry but I just didn't enjoy this. I loved all her children's books and laughed often while reading them. They were witty, clever and funny. This, in contrast, was very bleak but I guess that may have been the point. I liked none of the characters or events at any point - everyone was unrelentingly awful and their lives deafeningly depressing.

    It's a familiar world but a squinted view at it. I didn't get any humour in this one (there may have been some but I definitely missed it) and
    ...more
    Chris Haak
    Oct 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
    No, just no. Maybe I've read about/seen too many young girls with eating disorders, but I think Thomas writes too lightly about this problem which turns a not very good book into even a worse one. I used to like her novels a lot. They had a nice mix of mystery, writing pace and excellent plots. Wonderful characters you would like have to become friends with as well. But in Oligarchy there's none of that: a weak plot, the characters are flat and unteresting (though I would like to have learned ...more
    Malcolm
    Nov 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Scarlett Thomas’s slightly off-centre fiction works best when she wrangles, satirically, with science and with class, with expectation of genre, of celebrity, of status – all of which pervade this bleak tale of a minor independent girls’ school. At its centre, Natasha, daughter of a Russian oligarch recently pulled out her mother’s life by him and shunted off to rural Hertfordshire. There she finds herself amid a group of other 15 year old misfits who have all the appearances of being the ‘nasty ...more
    Laura
    Oct 18, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: netgalley
    Natasha's world has changed vastly and suddenly. She has just met her fsther, a Russian oligarch, and been sent to an all girl boarding school in England. The girls have very limited internet access, but what they get is spent on Instagram, promoting fierce body image concerns, fad diets and eventually eating disorders. Then one of Tash's friends dies, and the world at the school becomes even stranger.

    Content warning: eating disorders, body image issues

    I've read a few of Scarlett Thomas' books
    ...more
    MisterHobgoblin
    Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
    Scarlett Thomas specialises in quirky novels with slightly eccentric characters. They are usually long, and often the ideas are stronger than the plotting.

    Oligarchy is different, in that it is a short novel - but it still has quirky characters and fizzy ideas. Natasha is the daughter of a Russian oligarch who seems to have only recently faced up to his parental responsibilities. So he has arranged for Natasha to come to England to go to an all girls boarding school near Hitchin. It is not a
    ...more
    Holly Noyce Barnham
    Oligarchy was not at all what I'd expected from Scarlett Thomas - although she is an author who writes about varied and different topics, a meditation on life in a high-society girl's school was not something I envisioned her next book being. However, as with everything else she's written about, she writes about it masterfully. This novel draws you in to the strange lives of its characters, the inanities, anxieties, issues, or being a teenage girl at boarding school. The characters are ...more
    miss.mesmerized mesmerized
    When Natasha arrives from Russia at her new boarding school in rural England, she struggles to adapt. Not only the foreign language, but the special language all these year-11 girls from superrich families use. Yet, not only the words, but also the manners are quite unique and the one thing that they are obsessed with is how to lose weight. It is not just to get rid of some rests of baby fat or being in a better shape, the most important thing is being thinner than the others since the ...more
    Siobhan
    Oct 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
    Oligarchy is a sharp, dark novel about rich teenagers, eating disorders, and the secrets of a boarding school. Tash is the daughter of a Russian oligarch and has suddenly been sent to an English boarding school. The wifi use is restricted, the hierarchies are strange, and everyone is obsessed with looks and eating even though they can barely get on Instagram without surreptitious means. She ends up part of the group of troublemakers, all willing to go further than the rest, but when one of them, ...more
    Cheryl
    Oct 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
    Oligarchy is the story of Natasha, the daughter of a Russian oligarch, who has been newly reunited with her father and duly sent to boarding school in Britain. The school is a hotbed of girl crushes, eating disorders, and rituals, and Natasha is soon entrenched in the diets and customs. When Natasha's emaciated roommate, Bianca, is found drowned in the lake on school grounds, the school cracks down on the girls' dieting. But girls like these will always find a way to get what they want...

    It's
    ...more
    Tess
    Dec 02, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
    What a strange book OLIGARCHY is. Unexpected, daring, and full of life; this book is certainly unlike anything I have read before. Scarlett Thomas paints an amazing portrait of a British girls boarding school full of hierarchies, social media obsessions, and worst of all, brutal eating disorders. But nothing is what it seems -- throw in some surprising deaths from side characters, and you have a fully-formed but extremely weird novel.

    To say this book is a dark comedy may be a bit of an
    ...more
    Annette Jordan
    Oligarchy by Scarlett Thomas follows Natasha, the daughter of a mysterious Russian oligarch as she experiences life in an all girl boarding school. Natasha is newly rich, and grew up with her mother in relative poverty before being swept away by her immensely wealthy father and shipped off. As well as adjusting to her new school life with its numerous rules and difficult to manoeuvre social pecking order, she has to come terms with her new family. As she begins to understand and develop ...more
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    1,327 followers
    Scarlett Thomas was born in London in 1972. Her widely-acclaimed novels include PopCo, The End of Mr Y and The Seed Collectors. As well as writing literary fiction for adults, she has also written a literary fantasy series for children and a book about writing called Monkeys with Typewriters. Her work has been translated into more than 25 languages.

    She has been longlisted for the Orange Prize,
    ...more
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