Work for the Bitch Queen?
Millions would kill for the chance.
Will she survive it?
I was determined to avoid The Devil Wears Prada, by Lauren Weisberger. It just got too much buzz, and I'm a bit of a snob about books. I don't want to read the books everyone talks about.
But. I saw the movie previews, and so many people praised the book that I finally bought it. And I liked it. It was fun.
Probably everybody knows the basic storyline by now, but I'll review it just in case. Oh, and I'll warn you: there's at least one spoiler toward the end.
Andrea (who longs to write for the New Yorker) has just gotten her first real job: as the assistant to the editor of THE fashion magazine. It's a job a million other girls would kill for.
Unfortunately, her boss, Miranda Priestly, is a Grade A, First Class, Unrivaled Biatch. I cannot describe the myriad of ways she makes Andrea's life miserable.
But all Andrea has to do is survive one year. At the end of the year, she'll be able to choose her dream job.
Yes, the Biatch does have that kind of power. But can Andrea survive the year?
My favorite parts of Prada were the glorious descriptions of clothes and shoes. One evening gown, for instance, cost $40,000 retail. Before Miranda wears it, however, they send it to a dry cleaner to be freshened. The dry cleaning bill? Something like $600. I never dreamed you could pay that kind of money for dry cleaning!
So, yeah. I had a great time living the fast life vicariously.
However. And for me, this "however" was fatal. I didn't like the main character. Not at all.
She was a major whiner who took a job she felt superior to and then didn't bother to do it well. For instance, she's supposed to serve Miranda's food on a china plate, then wash it up in the employee's kitchen. She doesn't bother; she just dusts off the crumbs. She doesn't quite spit in Miranda's food before she serves it, but the spirit is certainly there.
And because she's on an expense account, she throws money away. I can respect that she took a taxi to and from work every day because she worked 14 hours or more, and the taxi could buy her an extra hour or two of sleep (hence making her a better employee the next day).
But every day when she went to Starbucks to buy a single cup of coffee for Miranda, she bought a whole tray of things, which she distributed among the homeless on her way back to the office. It's hard to say it's wrong to give hot coffee and food to homeless people, but when you're doing it with someone else's money, without their knowledge or permission ... how is that not stealing?
And she made a point of dawdling. Every time she left the building on one of her many runs, she stretched it out to make it last as long as possible. Um, I believe there's a word for that too: lazy.
No matter how difficult Miranda was to work for, at least she had integrity. She never pretended to be nice. What she promised was a killer year, during which an assistant would learn furiously, and then an open door to whatever the assistant wanted. And even though she was aware of Andrea's bad attitude and tendency to slack, she was still prepared to open that door. That's integrity.
What Andrea owed her was a year of doing the best she could (understanding she'd often fall short, maybe far short) since she was using Miranda to get what she wanted. But she didn't deliver. So I didn't like her, and I never understand how the perfect boyfriend was attracted in the first place, much less stuck around.
But even worse, the climatic moment, the hero's most horrific decision, was clunky.
Maybe this shows my wrong values, but who thinks a person is obligated to quit a job and return from Europe because her roommate is in the hospital? Especially when she'd only arrive one day earlier than if she finished the job? That's nuts! Who even thinks it's a good idea? With the roommate disabled for a while, Andrea's going to need an income more than ever, for both of them.
Then, because this is Chicklit and has to have a happy ending, some really unbelievable things happened, things that weakened Weisberger's credibility. If Weisberger's portrayal of Miranda's power was accurate, the Happy Ending was unbelievable. So I felt manipulated.
Then I learned last week that Prada is a roman a clef, which really makes me respect the woman Miranda is based on, and check Weisberger off my list, once and for all.
If you've seen the movie but haven't read the book, no doubt you are wondering what I'm talking about. The movie producers fixed most of the problems I mention here, and the movie was charming and funny.
The book? It was a fun read. But next time I'm inclined to skip the newest Great Thing, I think I will.