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Books

Top 5 books about social climbers

Which is your favourite book on society’s high flyers? From Gatsby to Mr Ripley, author Laura Vaughan gives us her recommendations

Author Laura Vaughan has written eleven books for children and young adults. Now, she is making the voyage into adult fiction.

Her latest novel, The Favour, follows 18-year-old Ada Howell who seizes an opportunity to bind herself to Venice’s social elite. Here, she gives us her top 5 books about social climbers.

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery

Thackery described his book as “a novel without a hero”, but Becky Sharp is the true (anti) heroine – scheming and seducing her way through London high-society during and after the Napoleonic Wars. We can’t help being charmed by her chutzpah.

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

Jay Gatsby buys his place in high society with lavish parties funded with ill-gotten gains. But he’s a romantic as well as a criminal, and it’s this that proves his undoing. Gatsby is Fitzgerald’s vision of the American Dream: idealistic, endlessly striving, easily corrupted.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Middle-class Charles Ryder insinuates himself into the aristocratic Marchmain family, moving from a sexually-ambivalent relationship with his best friend Sebastian to an affair with Sebastian’s sister Julia (making a socially advantageous marriage in between).But his greatest love is for Brideshead, the Marchmains’ stately pile.

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Tom Ripley is the ultimate sociopath: a conman who’ll do whatever it takes to keep climbing. There’s a transgressive thrill in seeing him get away with it, but the breath of evil lingers after the book ends.

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The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Gawky Richard Papen reinvents himself in order to infiltrate a group of elitist classics students at his college. He becomes too obsessed with his own ego, and the fantasy of attaining a rarefied world of truth and beauty, to recognise the horror that’s unfolding around him.

The Favour by Laura Vaughan is out now (Atlantic, £14.99)

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