It tells the tale of 18 year-old Eimear who becomes a chalet girl on a ski season upon leaving her strict Irish Catholic School. Eimear hopes to find fun, friends and freedom amidst the snowy mountaintops of L'Homme, whilst also losing her virginity to the right man.
OOTP reminded me of Samoan Sun by Claire Sherwood. Both are semi-autobiographical novels which follow a young female protagonist on their gap year, discovering adventure, a new culture and romance. However, Samoan Sun offers exotic sun, sea and sand, whereas OOTP gives us sun, skis and snow, not to mention sex.
And, whilst Sherwood has written a thriller, Swanton has delivered a comedy.
Readers are treated to stacks of observational humour about the surreal "seasonaire" lifestyle. If you have never done a ski season, then you will enjoy the Bill Bryson-esque insight into this unknown culture: skiing methods, the colour-coded ski runs, the jägerbombs, the game of fives, the highs and lows, the Yos (cool guy wannabes who wear baggy clothes) and the interchangeable Bobs (essentially sex pests).
There are elements of Fawlty Towers in Eimear's chalet guests, who include sex-mad baby boomers, yuppies who request a taxi halfway up a ski slope, and an OCD woman who doesn't eat pork and therefore won't play Pass The Pigs. Swanton has based this novel on her own ski season experience, so all of the above might be real!
Much of the plot is driven by Eimear's romance with Ryan, a seasoned seasonaire, excellent skier and blue-eyed Adonis with bulging biceps. They meet when Eimear's clumsiness claims his wing mirror and their young love is sweet but realistic too. This is a modern couple, expertly portrayed, which means the relationship is bumpier than a mogul run and Happily Ever After never feels guaranteed.
Rest assured, the romantic plot slaloms through Eimear's own tales as a chalet girl, which means OOTP is not hijacked by the love story and equal weight is given to Eimear as an individual, where much of the comedy lies.
Eimear is the standout character by far, presented as your typical eighteen year-old: well-meaning but often naive, sometimes annoying, always lovable, with hilarious outbursts of melodrama and usually over-thinking every detail. For instance, her mind wanders to the colour of Ryan's socks when they are finally getting sexy sans salopettes.
There are also some fantastic pop culture references which spring from Eimear's head, ranging from Beauty and the Beast to South Park. Through the closely-written third person narrative, Swanton captures the young Millennial voice brilliantly.
I would love to see OOTP developed into an Adrian Mole-esque franchise, wherein we catch up with Eimear every few years to see how her adventures are progressing. The ending hints that Eimear may be off on her travels again for her final summer before University, so there is undoubtedly a good sequel opportunity there too. Over to you, Swanton!
In the meantime, slap on your skis and get yourself Out On The Piste.
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