With 10 days to go until the release of New Year’s Eve, I decided to post every day about an influence on the novel.
A few months ago, I came upon my favourite way to pitch New Year’s Eve. It only works for die-hard thriller fans, and with the pandemic I haven’t had a chance to try it.
But it goes like this:
Imagine Louise Candlish’s Those People… turned inside out.
Louise Candlish’s novel is a hugely popular thriller about class anxiety; there have been quite a few of them since the recession of 2008, and I’d expect many more in the wake of Covid. I have always found that the thriller genre is particularly well-placed to explore the topic; after all, what crime novel does not depict two worlds colliding in one way, shape or form?
Those People, however, has a particular bearing on New Year’s Eve. Candlish’s excellent novel is set in a suburban middle-class paradise, and tells the story of an idyllic setting being disrupted by the arrival of some rude working-class neighbours.
The story focuses on the original middle class inhabitants and the lengths they go to in order to protect their area from the intruders. The more the novel goes on, the more you begin to fear what they are capable of. You start to wonder just how impenetrable the barriers separating classes are, and what we are willing to do just in order to preserve our social bubbles.
It is a fascinating conceit. However, during the novel, I found that I was curious about the other side of the story; the perspective of the new neighbours. I pondered what it would be like to move into an area and be faced with the disdain of those living next door. To be looked down upon; to be told, in that very British way, that you don’t belong.
I was part of the way through drafting New Year’s Eve before I realised that I’d actually written an inversion of Those People. My main characters, Hayley and Ethan, are the intruders moving into a prestigious area. They think that they have escaped their backgrounds– only to be reminded of their humble upbringings by the superior attitudes of their neighbours. And they wonder, just as the reader of Those People wonders, how far the neighbours are willing to go in order to protect their middle-class utopia.
I like to think that Candlish and I are speaking about the same issue of alienation within British class culture.
It’s only that I chose to look at the other side of the coin.