lip lit: Jade Jaeger, All That Shimmers
Sydney socialite Jade Jaeger was the wife of Sydney millionaire and pub mogul Mark Alexander Erber, with Jimmy Choos on her feet, a Fendi purse in hand and a Maserati in the garage. It was a decadent lifestyle, but one that came with an emotional abuse and an unfaithful husband. So what’s an affluent suburban housewife to do when her marriage finally crumbles? Why, write a tell-all autobiography, of course.
All That Shimmers is a glimpse into an unfamiliar world where women gather for cocktail parties where cocaine is the main item on the menu, and husbands shower their wives with lavish presents to keep them from getting fed up with their affairs. It’s told in a highly personal way as Jade recounts the story of her marriage, its decline and the aftermath of the final separation. Jade shows through her story how abuse doesn’t have to be physical, peppering the book with anecdotes showing the ways that she suffered through her marriage. Perhaps the most significant quote of all was when Jade reflected, “I realised that Mark had the power to change the way I felt about myself. And I had given it to him.”
Even for someone as utterly ignorant of gossip about Sydney’s elite as I am, it wasn’t hard to pick some of the characters, even though Jade pretended to disguise their identity. A character called “The Socialite” was a very transparent rendering of Amber Petty, who dated Mark shortly after the marriage’s demise. Jaeger’s tone in the sections mentioning the relationship between her husband and “The Socialite” are vengeful in tone, and throughout the book, she often writes in a snarky way. She seemed judgemental of everyone around her, even when her own conduct was less than exceptionable. While the other suburban housewives took cocaine, Jade was also right in there with them, and while she was with Mark, often acted in crass ways that I just couldn’t understand. Whenever I found myself getting drawn in, emphasising with Jade, the next sentence would snap me out of it with crudeness, hypocrisy or just plain bitchiness.
Reading All That Shimmers, I almost felt bad for not having more of an emotional response to the book. She tries to do so many clever things in the book that the point gets kind of lost at times. For instance, the chronology of the book jumps around so much that it was sometimes hard to keep track of what was actually happening. At other times, her life seemed just so far removed from my own that it was hard to relate to her. That said, even if I didn’t always understand Jade, the message of her story came through loud and clear: even when you’ve been putting up with a bad situation for a long time, you can take back the power. This book comes as a timely reminder in our consumerist society that not all that shimmers is worth having, and that self respect and looking after yourself mean a whole lot more.