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Monday, April 5, 2010

'Playing the Field' by Zoë FOSTER



From the BLURB:

In the glossy world of footballers' WAGs, love is the toughest game of all . . .

Jean Bennett, aspiring jewellery designer, knows as much about football as she does astrophysics. But when she moves to the bright lights of Sydney and falls in love with star footballer Josh Fox, she has to learn – fast.



Thrown eyelashes first into the world of WAGs, Jean is way out of her league. She navigates her way through semi-finals, a gruelling social calendar and salacious scandals on Josh's arm, safe in the knowledge he belongs to her – or so she thinks. But as her hair gets blonder, her heels higher and her tops lower, Jean begins to wonder who she's become . . .




Zoë Foster is sort of Australia’s real-life Carrie Bradshaw. She was Cosmopolitan magazine’s Beauty & Lifestyle editor, before becoming Beauty Director of Harper’s BAZAAR magazine. Now she writes a monthly personal column for Cosmopolitan magazine.

‘Playing the Field’ is all about footballer WAG’s (wives and girlfriends), something Ms. Foster actually knows a fair bit about. For a few years she dated NRL (national rugby league) player, Chris Wing. They featured sporadically in the Sydney society pages and had an on again/off again relationship. They also had a few bumpy patches, most notably Chris’s rumored infidelity with model/waste-of-space Lara Bingle.

So you know that Ms. Foster is writing from life. It lends a fair bit of credibility to her story… and a touch of cringe. Especially when some bitchy WAGs closely resemble the real-life Ms. Bingle…

You do feel sorry for Jean. She admits early on to having ‘daddy issues’ since her father abandoned her family to run-off with her mother’s ditzy hairdresser cousin. Plus there’s the fact that Jean is living with her older sister, Collette, who is nursing her own heartbreak after discovering her fiancée was cheating on her with an ex. There aren’t a lot of stable relationship role models in Jean’s life, and even fewer trustworthy men. And you do wonder why she is setting herself up for heartache with footy legend, Josh Fox. Especially when she does an Internet search on him that points to promiscuity and a ‘ladies man’ reputation.
Add the fact that when she first meets him (and he hits on her) he is actually in a relationship with one Tess Clifton. Ms. Clifton is a blonde-bombshell, aspiring TV talk-show-host and the daughter to one co-owner of Josh’s rugby team.

Warning bells should be exploding for Jean when, after their second date, Josh and a few teammates get caught on CCTV being kicked out of a brothel. He claims innocence, and Jean basks in the glow of his affection because he’s so relieved to have a laidback, understanding girlfriend.

Jean’s life is further warped by the WAG dictate. She bemoans having to dress to the nines for all occasions – footy games, airport runs, luncheons – all requiring full make-up, heels and the latest over-sized tote bag. Then there’s the jealousy – football groupies openly ogle Josh and hotter, younger women drape themselves over his body when taking the obligatory fan camera-phone-pose. Even worse, Josh (and his teammates) take it all as a given. They’re treated like Gods – women want them, grown men want to be them and kids idolize them. Jean has to suffer through countless, hair-raising WAG stories about standing next to their footy paramours when groupies offer them blowjobs, handjobs and toilet-stall romps.

Jean becomes increasingly frazzled by other Glamazon WAGs and a feeling that she is competing against them. She pretends to be ‘okay’ when groupies flirt and Josh laps it up – all in the name of being his understanding, ‘low-maintenance’ girlfriend. But it’s eating her up. She’s turning into someone she doesn’t like very much.
On a very basic level, Jean hates that she now dresses to impress men – Josh, and his teammates. She hates that she feels self-worth when one of Josh’s friends comments on her good looks, as though she is earning her keep and having a legitimate reason for being on Josh’s arm…

Zoë Foster has such a great, distinct voice in Jean. At the beginning she’s an innocent bystander, taking in ridiculous WAG shenanigans and offering up witty commentary;

From their incy-wincy bums and lusty-busty cleavage, it seemed impossible that some of them had actually grown small humans inside. Maybe they knew the doctor who delivered Victoria Beckham’s babies. Via her ear.

Ms. Foster has a very dry, sarcastic humor. And it’s all whittled down by precise metaphors and analogies, like this gem of a sentence, describing one of the few friendly WAGs;

A rose between the thorns; a suntan amongst the sprays.

Jean’s humor is especially sharp when describing Tess Clifton, Josh’s crazy ex-

She was one nuclear accident off being a super villain.

Foster really utilizes voice to communicate her characters transition to ‘the dark side’. In the beginning Jean is very realistic about the vapid world of WAGs, and she offers up scathing commentary to prove it. But as the book progresses and Jean becomes more and more caught up in the lifestyle, her voice becomes noticeably more asinine. At one point she muses on the difference between ‘Whatever WAGs’, UltraWAGs’ and ‘High-school Sweetheart’s’ - I was rolling my eyes and pursing my lips at the gossipy rubbish sprouting from Jean's once witty voice.

Halfway through this book I was all ready to give it 5-stars. Because I thought I knew where it was going… Jean was losing herself to highlights and mini-skirts, while Josh continued to act like a privileged sports star… I was really looking forward to reading some empowering feminism sprout forth from Jean’s glossed lips, and I could just hear the opening lines of Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’… R-E-S-P-E-C-T….

But then it all goes horribly wrong. The ending is a rush-job – Foster throws a curve ball that sends the plot into a tailspin I never saw coming. And despite feeding Jean’s (and readers) distrust of Josh, he comes out inexplicably smelling like roses… and then the ending comes too close to resembling Ms. Foster’s own life… it just all goes so, so wrong. And it’s a shame, because until the last 2 chapters I was all set to proclaim what a 5-star winner this book was. But the ending completely fizzles. The whole book feels like it’s leading to one giant empowering finale for Jean, in which she realizes how toxic, angst-ridden and just plain ‘high school’ the whole footy/WAG world is. But Foster completely misses her chance – thereby making the entire book irrelevant because the ending is so conventional, unbelievable and downright clumsy.

Read this book to get a reality-check about the peroxide world of WAGs. It will shock, disgust and intrigue you – even more so since you know that Zoë Foster is writing from life. But prepare to be bitterly disappointed by a ‘WTF?’ ending that overshadows a great premise and wonderful writing.

2/5

2 comments:

  1. argh, I hate when that happens... the book is close to perfect and then we get a stupid ending lol

    Great review hon!

    I see you're reading Three Days...

    really cool book, hope you enjoy it =)

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  2. I hate a bad ending! I'm on the fence about this one...I haven't been able to find any more sports contemps but I don't know if this is really what I'm looking for either...

    ReplyDelete