Today we have a guest blogger: Colm Redmond
A Week In December by Sebastian Faulks
published 2009 Chapter 7 Saturday, December 22 [the last day of the titular week, in 2007]
[Some characters who have appeared separately throughout the book are assembling for a pretty high-powered dinner party. Olya has a career and used to have a very different one, we'll come to that in the commentary; but in this context she is essentially the girlfriend of Spike - a footballer at a top Premier League club - and also very relevantly a terrifically glamorous young woman. She calls Spike "Tad", short for his real, Polish name.]
Spike was talking to Roger Malpasse, who was in some difficulty - fascinated by what Spike could tell him about the Premier League, but unable to keep his eyes from Olya, so much of whom was revealed by her sleeveless, almost (it seemed to Roger) topless, yet at the same time curiously demure dress in deep red satin.
"This thin person is your wife?" said Spike, pointing towards Amanda in her emerald sheath.
"Yes, yes, that's her all right." [...]
"Tad," said Olya. "There is man over there who is looking at me in strange way."
"Who is that man?" said Spike.
"That one?" said Roger. "That's John Veals. The hedge-fund manager. He looks at everyone in a strange way. I wouldn't let it worry you."
observations - Colm Redmond writes: It's unclear whether Spike - who, we know, had his clothes chosen and bought for him by Olya this afternoon while he was out at work, ie playing in his first Premier League match - has got it wrong by wearing (very) smart casual, however expensive, because none of the men who are familiar with this social set have their outfits described. It's unusual, from a male novelist, that Spike is lovingly gone over with the forensic eye of a romance or chicklit writer introducing the irresistible cad anti-hero, while the glamorous ladies are paid much less attention.
(Spike is immediately lovable and sadly underused in a book that's mainly very readable but is short on light relief. He has not been in England long but is well-travelled and used to learning new languages, and there's a lot of enjoyment to be had from his determination to learn and understand English idioms. This could easily drift into fun-poking and Laughing At The Foreigns but never does, largely because he always thinks, and tries to say, surprising and interesting things - not pointless things that happen to lend themselves to linguistic jokes. Similarly, although stereotypical foreign characters may well say things like "there is man" and "in strange way", real foreign people very often do too, and we have no problem with the way Olya - who's Russian - and Spike talk. It barely needs saying that their English is no doubt a hell of a lot better than any of the English characters' Russian or Polish.)
Olya's dress is hard to imagine from the information available, no matter how much fun it may be to try. Perhaps it's something like the one Marilyn Monroe wears to sing Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend [Editor: or this one?] - showing plenty of skin, but none of it out of place in respectable society. We don't even know if it's short or long and tight or not. It's enough to know she's very easy to look at.
As for John Veals: he is looking at Olya "in strange way" because he recognises her. Back home in Russia she was various kinds of a model, and a website featuring lots of her soft porn photos is popular with more than one character, for very different reasons. If Clothes In Books had a quid for every time we've recognised someone no-one else does and then had to hope it's not because we know them from some sordid magazine or website or film - or, of course, adventure - we'd be millionaires.
Sports note: Clothes In Books is a stranger both to pedantry and, pretty much, to sport, but notes that footballers do not join Premier League clubs just before Christmas: the Transfer Window system prevents this; unless Spike had been a free agent and Sebastian Faulks just didn't feel like telling us. It's also not clear why he apparently goes to the training ground for the first time during the week in which the book is set, if he's been with the club long enough to have been with the other players when they turned on the Christmas Lights.
The picture shows Louise Brooks, always so easy to look at, [Ed: and always a blog favourite] in a dress Olya probably would wear given half a chance.