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Book Review: "The View Was Exhausting" is the perfect beach read this summer

For all of my pop culture connoisseurs out there–I’ve found your next binge read: Mikaella Clements and Onjuli Datta’s debut “The View Was Exhausting.”

British-Indian, A-list actress Whitman “Win” Tagore has perfected the art of controlling her public reputation with the help of playboy Leo Milanowski. The couple has enraptured the world with their explosive chemistry, well-timed kisses, and on-and-off-again romance–but it’s all an elaborate lie to smooth out Win’s reputation.

After a very public break-up, Win escapes to the French Riviera with Leo to repair her public reputation before she loses her next big acting gig. But this staged vacation feels off–Leo’s harboring an explosive secret that could sink Win’s personal and professional lives to the bottom of the ocean. Win and Leo must finally confront the unknown, hidden truths and lies of their relationship and decide if a rising career or a shot at love is worth it.

Win and Leo’s characterization and development evolve in a wondrously complex fashion that few authors can master. Each of their intricacies is nothing if not nuanced and profoundly human–a welcome change to the sub-genre of celebrity-centered novels. Their friendship and hidden love for one another evolve throughout the story as the couple reflects on their decade-long “love affair” effortlessly. There’s nothing more spectacular than watching Win and Leo fall hopelessly and obliviously in love by the climax. Clements and Datta master the art of writing a believable and beautiful friends-to-lovers arc through the dual perspectives of Win and Leo and the flashbacks.

Combined with commentary on Hollywood, racism, sexism, and grief, Clements and Datta paint an illuminating portrait of the reality of a woman of color working in a white, male-dominated field. These observations aren’t anything new–real British-Indian actors have come forward with their experiences in Hollywood’s white-dominated culture and identity switching when breaking into the industry. Nevertheless, Clements and Datta effortlessly pull back the curtain on the industry’s issues and culture without tokenizing our protagonist.

A delightful beach read, “The View Was Exhausting” is a passionate and explosive examination of Hollywood through the eyes of an Indian actress who will do anything for her reputation and her secret love. This love story is irresistible, evocative, darkly funny, and steeped with yearning.

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