Worth by Jon Canter

published 2011   part 2

When we arrived at eight o’clock on a Friday night, a choice of Jane’s rejected purchases would be hanging on the hook of our bedroom door, for Sarah to help herself. To denote a rejected item, Jane inked a black cross on the label. One Friday, we arrived to find a red dress with silver studs. Sarah was insulted. How could her sister think she’d wear a dress like that? …I told Sarah to try it on. It hung loosely on her, reaching her knees, because there was more of Jane than Sarah. More bust, more hips, more height, more aggression, more need. When you saw them together, you thought Sarah had made herself smaller than her sister, by a lifetime’s recoiling from her. 

‘I like it,’ I said.

‘It’s not me,’ she said uncertainly, confused by my approval, not sure if she should let herself be altered by the dress. ‘When am I going to wear it? It’s so loud and stupid. What a waste of money.’ 

I agreed. It was loud, stupid and wasteful. That was what made it so supremely metropolitan, perfect for wearing now. Sarah could never wear it at her homeless charity, nor at her yoga lessons, nor on a footpath.

observations: So she’ll wear the dress once, not like it, donate it to a charity shop, and then her sister will spot it in the charity shop and get annoyed. And then this thread of the plot will disappear, as will the sister. This is a very entertaining book, particularly if you do not know too much about it beforehand – is it ladslit? Romcom? A crime story? Rural horror? A bit of all of them? It is very funny and very clever, with some great accounts of social events, and a very interesting take on the couple at the centre of the story, constantly subverting your expectations. They have moved to the country to save money, but are not at all sure about what they have found there. But soon, red dresses, trips to London like the one above, and (for the most part) their family and prior friends will all fade away as they make friends with Catherine, a next-door neighbour. The observations are splendid, and the interactions between the narrator and Sarah are superb. There are many priceless moments, but indeed the whole book would be worth it for this outrageous reason for patronizing  private schools:

for ten or twelve thousand pounds a year, you could drive your four-by-four into a private-school car park and get the chance to run over a rich mum, which wouldn’t matter, they liked being flattened, anything to be skinny.

Links on the blog: the Crumbcatcher dress was red, and Proust’s Mme de Guermantes had a red dress too, and there’s a lady in shocking scarlet here.

The picture is of the singer Amerie at the Heart Truth charity event – for more details of this rich Web resource, see the explanatory credits for this entry, which also featured a famous-ish person in a red dress.


  1. Moira - That dress is something! I have to say I'd never be able to pull it off but on Amerie it looks wonderful. The story sounds enjoyable and clever, too. Thanks for sharing.


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