‘Girls’ in Dalston? Elizabeth Aaron’s new novel bares soul of 20-something hipsters

Elizabeth Aaron. Picture: Hanako Whiteway

Elizabeth Aaron. Picture: Hanako Whiteway - Credit: Archant

Born in Michigan but raised around the mean streets of Whitechapel during her university years, Elizabeth Aaron is no stranger to Hackney’s thriving social scene.

While studying for a fashion degree in London, she – like a seeming plethora of girls and boys alike – spent her early 20s embarking on a series of bad dates, clumsy mishaps and drug-fuelled club nights that have since become the staple diet of pioneering TV shows like Nathan Barley and Lena Dunham’s groundbreaking Girls.

After finding the life-consuming world of the fashion industry wasn’t for her, she relocated to Paris to transfer such experiences into her debut novel, Low Expectations.

Telling tales of dodgy university degrees and romantic liaisons ruined by cigarette-induced coughing fits, it follows middle-class hipster Georgie and her coterie of alcoholic friends who taunt her with algae-shakes, yoga and posh banker boyfriends.

“I have a lot of girl friends and not very many guy friends, and I went to an all girls school, so I think that’s allowed me growing up to be really honest with my friends,” says Aaron.

“We have this habit of just baring our souls but in a funny way, and not worrying about external factors of how this is going to be viewed, is it attractive, is it desirable? We’re quite disgusting actually, it’s pretty crude.”

Influenced by writers such as Helen Fielding and David Sedaris, Low Expectations has opened a world of possibilities for the 27-year-old.

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It’s cinematic enough that she, with help from friends, even created a video trailer to promote the book, and she has also taken a stand-up show based on her real life tales to the Edinburgh Fringe to great success.

It’s no surprise; her real life often reads like the novel itself. Sitting down in Hackney’s The Railroad café, she regales me with tales of friends who have pretended they’re going to jail in order to persuade girls they’re dangerous, and how on one particularly fateful evening in a bar, she was forced to stop kissing her date because her hair had caught fire.

“Luckily the bouncer saved my scalp and ran over with his leather jacket to put it out,” she laughs.

“If it had been me and I’d seen someone with their hair on fire, I probably would have thrown a cocktail over them, so it was quite lucky really.”

With the aftermath of Girls spurring a whole generation of twenty-something hipsters spilling their hearts however, does Aaron think young people’s new found honesty has made her job any easier?

“It was interesting when Girls came out; I’d just finished the first draft of the novel and the initial feeling was obviously f**k, she’s already done it, it’s over, too late.

“But actually, had it not been for that, I don’t think I would have got a publishing deal, because that way of writing about sex and that kind of honesty hadn’t really been done.

“I think our generation was just having so much bad sex that a paradigm shift was created.”

Low Expectations by Elizabeth Aaron is published by Quercus for £6.99.

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