Other People’s Clothes by Calla Henkel: Parties and pretentiousness in Berlin

Too many aspects of this debut novel about American exchange students lack depth

Calla Henkel

Calla Henkel

“Being an artist is about selling stories, and selling stories is commerce. There is nothing alternative about it.” This is one of many interesting observations about the art world in Calla Henkel’s debut novel, Other People’s Clothes, which looks at the lengths some artists will go in the name of their work.

How society sensationalises the lives (and deaths) of women is a central focus, but ironically the novel itself is in danger of doing what it warns against. Ostensibly a story about a pair of American art students on a year’s Erasmus study in Berlin, there is a queasy blend of realist detail and pulp fiction that threatens to undermine the book.

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