The Sharing Economy by Sophie Berrebi: ’Unlimited access to the cookie jar’

Cover image for The Sharing Economy by Sophie BerrebiHaving read Jo Bloom’s Permission which explores very similar territory not so long ago, I was in two minds about reading Sophie Berrebi’s The Sharing Economy which sees woman pushing the boundaries of her open marriage but there was mention of art and Amsterdam in the blurb then another blogger spurred me on. Set in 2014, Berrebi’s novel explores Gabrielle’s experience of using a new dating app which gives free rein to her desire for sexual adventure.

For now, the sweeping was intoxicating enough. All these happy smiling faces of available, attentive young men, who all seemed to be running mud races or riding race bikes, on holiday or sitting casually at a terrace in Amsterdam, seemed to be full of possibilities.

Gabrielle moved from London to be with Anton over a decade ago. They have a nine-year-old son, Victor, whose birth triggered a period of unhappiness for Gabrielle, a loss of self to which she found it hard to adjust. Both Anton and Gabrielle work in the art world, their social life taken up with dinner parties and exhibition openings. They’re open about their affairs but when Gabrielle downloads a dating app, a distance opens up between them as she finds herself distracted by notifications, obsessively swiping left then sometimes right. A string of short-lived affairs sees her criss-crossing Amsterdam pursuing the next adventure. The honesty with Anton she’s always held dear begins to fray as her distraction intrudes on their time with Victor. By the end of the year, Gabrielle will have been brought up short by the extent of her obsession when Victor’s school is unable to contact either her or Anton. Life will have settled down for them both, at least for now.

The sharing economy is a well-chosen name. It purports to obliterate possessiveness: you invite a stranger to occupy your bed, you share collections of videos and books stored on a server, but in the end, that sharing is mostly an illusion, it is more like permanent rental.  

Set against an Amsterdam summoned up beautifully with a pleasing backdrop of art and culture, Berrebi’s novel follows Gabrielle as she embarks upon a year which challenges the tolerance of her husband, even in an open marriage. It asks serious questions about the way in which digital technology has changed us: are we no longer as present in the world as we were; are we closing ourselves off from simple day-to-day human interaction or is a new world of experience opening up for us? Berrebi does this by exploring Gabrielle’s experience with a dating app but these are questions that can be applied to many other aspects of our lives. While Anton champions the excitement of the interested glance across a room from an attractive woman, Gabrielle defends the digital path to new partners saying there’s no turning back now. Berrebi gives us much to think about in this absorbing novel, not least the effects on poor Victor, both of his parents preoccupied with their various partners.

Scribner: London 9781398515567 240 pages Hardback (Read via NetGalley)

10 thoughts on “The Sharing Economy by Sophie Berrebi: ’Unlimited access to the cookie jar’”

  1. Poor Victor indeed! I’ve never been able to tell my left from my right so I’ve always felt that dating apps could have very unpredictable results for me… 😉

  2. This sounds like a really interesting premise and the title is quite clever, though my initial thought was that it must be a non fiction book about freecycle or something! Lovely review.

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