Written by the daughter of Hugh Hefner's personal doctor/drug-peddler, Playground tells the story of coming of age in the Playboy Mansion.
The book is easy to read and hard to put down. The literary predecessor to today's 'dramality' television shows that bare the drama of the rich and semi-famous, the book is sexually-charged and at times poignant. There is barely a page that does not mention drugs, lies and secrecy, designer brands, or breasts. Even the section breaks have a little picture of pills as a flourish.
The opening paragraph of the book is worryingly: "It's 1975. I'm six when I see sex for the first time". Detailed descriptions of Saginor's ostentatious and sleazy surroundings- her father leaves a note for her between the enormous breasts of a statue- carry the narrative. It is only a few pages before Saginor is inside the Playboy Mansion for the first time, greeting Hugh Hefner and talking to her father as a bevy of beauties hang off him. Interestingly, as the book progresses she identifies more and more with the men of the Playboy Mansion. Hefner is always described with reverence, while the Playboy Bunnies are bimbo caricatures. She writes, "[My sister and I] don't need to play with Barbie dolls because there are live ones walking around everywhere". While she is scathing of how her father trained her to see women as disposable objects, she continues to describe women as "crack whores" and "skanks" throughout the book.
Saginor's life of innocently exploring the Playboy Mansion soon turns sinister as she grows up thinking Hefner's hedonistic lifestyle is normal. The rebellion that is a rite of passage for the children of the rich begins early; Saginor is already angry and withdrawn when she is in grade one. As a young teenager, she becomes reliant on drugs, following in the footsteps of her father. She is increasingly affected by his paranoia as his addictions become more serious. The latter half of the book is less about the sordid details of the Playboy Mansion, and more about the emotional scars left on her by her unstable father.
Aspects of the book seem contrived, such as the level of detail. Could six-year-old Saginor really have noticed packets of condoms and lubricant in the bathroom if she did not know what they were? Could she faithfully remember a conversation with words and implications she did not understand? Perhaps an older Saginor filled in the details, but the specific descriptions she give erode her credibility. Like the aforementioned 'dramality' television shows, perhaps Playground should be read as a mishmash of fact and fiction.
No doubt Saginor had to pull some strings in order to get her book published. It is poorly written and could do with some ruthless editing. It is not a classic; it is a guilty pleasure to be enjoyed in the same vein as trash television. Read it if you have a spare few hours and are craving the deliciousness of drama.
And make sure you have snacks on hand- Saginor's descriptions of on-demand food at the Playboy Mansion will leave you jealously salivating.