It’s New York in the early 1970s, and fresh-faced (though freakishly white-haired) Cherry Marshall from Arkansas has arrived with a few pictures and dreams of becoming a model. Armed with a tenuous link to fellow Arkansan and ex-top-model-turned-agency-owner Suzan Hartman, she soon finds herself plunged into the exciting, surreal fashion scene famous for weird, wacky excess and thrown together with fellow newcomer and sexy male model, Lale Hardcastle. As Cherry’s star rises, back in Arkansas her friend, Cassie, finds herself alone and pregnant after her fiancé runs away before the wedding. What follows is an outrageous, humorous, name-dropping and, at times, touching tale.
Having drawn on her own experience as a model, Norris Church Mailer (wife of writer Norman Mailer) has created a vibrant story set in the glamorous yet slightly seedy vision of New York that belongs to our collective consciousness. The plot shifts effortlessly from decadent tales of debauchery to touching vignettes of self-discovery. Some of her characters have a larger-than-life quality that makes them engaging and unforgettable. Others? Not so much. But, still, that contrast works well within the confines of fashion stereotypes.
Cheap Diamonds is almost like that one inevitable article tinged with real depth that can be found buried deep in almost every glossy fashion magazine—the one you never expect to stumble across but end up being glad you did because it sticks with you. Overall, Mailer’s second novel is worth reading, if only for the colorful, decadent memories she might bring back to those who remember the ΄70s!