My grateful thanks to Sarah Harwood at Penguin Random House for an advanced reader copy of The Assistants by Camille Perri in return for an honest review. The Assistants is published in paperback by Corgi, an imprint of Transworld Books, on 21st April 2016. The Assistants is also available in e-book and hardback.
Behind every successful man is a busy assistant and Tina’s boss is very successful.
But Tina is tired of being overworked and underpaid.
She’s bored of her damp flat and her mounting debts.
Then a blip in the expenses system sends Tina a cheque.
She’s a good person.
But she’s desperate.
This isn’t stealing.
It’s an administrative error.
What would you do if you thought you’d get away with it?
When Tina Fontana decides to use an accountancy error to pay off her student loan after working six years as Robert Barlow’s assistant, it is a move that will have far reaching repercussions for more than just her own life.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Assistants. It’s light, witty, sassy and entertaining. I especially liked Tina’s first person thoughts or asides to the reader that almost makes the reader complicit in Tina’s actions. I think I possibly missed the significance of a couple of the American cultural references, but this did not spoil my enjoyment of the narrative. There’s also a realism underlying the story that makes for a very engaging read.
Whilst initially some of the characters might be considered stereotypes, such as the Chinese girl Wendi Chan as computor whizz, the attractive girl Emily Johnson who apparently only wants diamonds and an attractive home with a pool, the mega boss Robert who plays hard and fast and expects everyone to pander to his whims, they are sufficiently well developed and rounded to make them come alive on the page. The battle of wits that ensues is very entertaining. Indeed, it is the recognisable elements that make the characters so appealing. We can all find aspects of ourselves in them.
There’s more to the story than just the events that happen to Tina too. The Assistants makes us question morality on a corporate and national level as well as the individual one. The story starts with Tina committing a technical theft, and there’s an uncomfortable wondering in the reader of what they might have done in her position, especially if we thought we might get away with it as the blurb for the novel asks.
In a way, The Assistants could be considered a feminist text as the females in the story fight back against the unfairness in the American system, but it is also a story about friendship and love and Camille Perri isn’t afraid to ridicule her sex too with their Lean Cuisine lunches and ham hock legs. On a more serious note, The Assistants did make me question if it is right for one person to be able to spend more on a cab ride than another can afford for a roof over their head each month.
In a nutshell, I found The Assistants enjoyable, entertaining and often quite thought provoking and I think it would make a great film.