Five top books on gossip
‘That is the ugliest effing skirt I’ve ever seen” is among the most memorable lines from the 2004 version of Mean Girls, uttered by high-school queen bee Regina George. The musical remake, in cinemas now, inherits the original film’s bitchiness and its iconic Burn Book – a scrapbook filled with cruel gossip about students and staff.
The spread of rumors outside of school may be less bold, but it can still be harmful. These five books demonstrate that gossipy relationships exist in all types of communities, ranging from small towns to the British government.
Cursed Bread by Sophie Mackintosh
When a diplomat and his elegant spouse, Violet, show up in a small French village with unclear motives, speculations spread at the communal washing area where a group of women gather every week: Violet takes milk and rose petal baths, she came from a mental institution, she used to be a prostitute. Rumors also circulate at the bakery counter where the narrator, Elodie, is employed and becomes a kind of confidant for the community, learning about affairs and schemes for retaliation. “I believe that those insignificant little secrets brought me joy because they diverted my attention from the greater terror of it all,” she later muses.
On Ajayi Crowther Street by Elnathan John and Àlàbá Ònájìn
This graphic novel, set in Lagos, depicts characters who view gossip as a potential danger, fearing the harm it can cause to their reputations. When the pastor’s son, Godstime, falls in love with his male friend and a gossip blogger exposes this, the pastor’s main concern is whether his church members have heard about it. During the Sunday service, he tries to put an end to the “whisperings of the devil’s agents”. Meanwhile, Godstime’s sister reminds him that “this is Nigeria” and something even more scandalous is likely to occur. Ironically, the pastor himself is hiding a truly awful secret throughout the entire story.
“Did You Not Hear?” by Marie Le Conte
According to an unnamed member of Parliament from the Conservative party, Westminster is often compared to the TV show House of Cards, but in reality it’s more similar to Mean Girls. Many people enter with aspirations of being a master manipulator like Francis Urquhart, but end up behaving more like the mean girl Regina George. In her book, Le Conte delves into the intricate and unofficial networks of gossip that operate in places like division lobbies, tea rooms, pubs, and Portcullis House, which play a significant role in the workings of politics and media in Westminster.
Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
The title of the play has a triple meaning: in the time of Elizabethan England, the word “nothing” was used as slang for “vagina” and was pronounced as “no-ting”, which hints at the theme of gossip and eavesdropping that drives the plot. In one scene, a conversation is purposely staged for Benedick to hear, revealing Beatrice’s supposed love for him, and vice versa, resulting in their eventual union. Later on, Borachio is overheard boasting about deceiving Claudio by pretending to court his love interest, Hero, leading to his arrest.
Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor, translated by Sophie Hughes
In Melchor’s fictional Mexican village, La Matosa, there are plentiful cruel epithets used to describe the nosy gossips in the neighborhood, such as “nosey cows,” “gobshites,” “stupid bigmouths,” and “two-faced harpy.” However, the novel itself is a product of rumor and gossip, as each chapter follows the viewpoints of villagers linked to the mysterious death of the Witch, whose decaying body is discovered in an irrigation canal on the very first page.