Book Club: How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell

If you’re familiar with Cat Marnell, you probably already know what to expect from her memoir, How to Murder Your Life. Hell, it’s all in the title, isn’t it?

If you don’t know the peroxide-blond socialite of New York City, then let me give you a heads up: This is going to be a wild ride. Think Courtney Love meets Lindsay Lohan meets lots and lots of cocaine. The book is brutal and destructive, but also completely captivating.

Marnell has a twisted humour and flat-broke honesty that is hardcore and brilliant, and her writing is packed with frantic, energetic descriptions that are so vivid, you can see her mess-of-a-life right there in front of you. And while you know this freight train is heading for the drop, you can’t tear your eyes away.

How to Murder Your Life starts as any good memoir should – at the beginning. Marnell grew up in a wealthy yet dysfunctional household, with a psychotherapist for a mother and a psychiatrist for a father. Cue a whole bag full of issues. Her home life was highly volatile and Marnell’s upbringing left her with a low self-esteem and poor social skills that would add to her misery in life.

That being said, she is also undoubtedly a spoiled brat who thoroughly squandered her opportunities (she isn’t blind to this fact whatsoever), starting with her expensive high school education. It’s during these years at a preppy, high-flying boarding school that she discovered ADHD meds, prescribed by her father, in the hopes of improving her grades. Pretty soon she reaches the top of her class, and also becomes pretty popular among the social crowds who are keen to share in her bounty. Needless to say, things don’t end well.

Her writing is packed with frantic, energetic descriptions that are so vivid, you can see her mess-of-a-life right there in front of you

Despite her self-destructive personal life, Marnell still managed to score a job as a beauty editor at Lucky magazine, one of the top Condé Nast titles at the time. Now if you’re in the beauty business, you’ll cringe from head to toe reading about all the ways she screws it up.

The international beauty eds in those days had it good. We’re talking international media trips and first class flights, insane press drops with designer accessories, and lunches with top names in the business. If Jennifer Lopez launched a fragrance, you got to meet her in person. You could have a media lunch with Gwen Stefani. Or rub shoulders with Anna Wintour. Many of us would sell a kidney to be in this position. Marnell would have too. She had wanted the job since she was 15 years old.

So you’d think she would sort her shit out when she finally made the cut? Sadly, this is when you really see it hit the fan.

So yes, get ready to see how drugs can ensnare a person and consume them from the inside out. This is how one person managed to throw it all away. And yet you absolutely want to read it. It is one of the best books I’ve picked up in years and while I’m completely horrified at Marnell’s personal life choices, I am completely captured by her ability to weave a story together.

She is vicious, witty and she bares it all right to the bone. I truly hope she manages to keep her shit together this time, because her voice is unique, refreshing, and a force to be reckoned with.

You can read an extract from the book here.

How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell R340, penguinrandomhouse.co.za

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