Saturday, December 02, 2006

Fiendish Fashion

"The Devil Wears Prada" by Lauren Weisberger
Book Review by Hayley Jones

I gave in to the hype. Being a fan of fiction, film and fashion (in that order), there was no way that The Devil Wears Prada could have passed me by. I wasn't sure what to expect: the last two books I've read that were classified as 'chick lit' (I hate that term) were drastically different, so I was dubious of whether this would be a true hit or a fashion faux pas.

Luckily for my faith in modern fiction, The Devil Wears Prada was far better than I expected.The most hyped-up thing about this novel is the rumour that the fashion editor, Miranda Priestly, is based on the notorious US Vogue editor Anna Wintour. Lauren Weisberger has denied this (well you would, if only to avoid getting sued) and Wintour took it all in good humour by turning up at a screening of the film wearing (yup, you've guessed it!) Prada.

There is something deliciously seductive about the idea of this novel being a woman's way of getting her own back on an evil boss though - anybody who's ever had a nightmare boss (which is pretty much everybody I know) will sympathize with the main character, Andy Sachs. Andy is hired as an assistant to Runway editor Miranda Priestly, despite knowing nothing about fashion, and is frequently reminded that it's a job "a million girls would die for" - despite it becoming obvious from Day One that it's a living hell.

Miranda makes all kinds of ludicrous demands (including ordering Andy to collect her car and chauffeur her cat) and has a nasty habit of saying very little, expecting her assistants to guess precisely what she means. She's an evil cow, but everyone kowtows to her because she's the editor and good at her job, so she calls the shots - and not just within the confines of Runway's HQ. This provides a perfect set-up for much comedy and, although it could've been funnier, it's extremely amusing and there are several laugh-out-loud moments. Thankfully though, unlike in other books I've read, Weisberger doesn't strive too hard to be funny and the humour comes off naturally rather than forced.

Andy herself is very endearing and, like me, has a penchant for sarcasm. She's fresh out of college and determined to forge a successful career for herself, hoping to become a writer. Trouble is, her work is so absorbing that she starts to neglect her family, her friends and her ever-understanding boyfriend. But what can she do? Surviving a year as Miranda's assistant without being fired virtually guarantees her any magazine job she wants. Surely everyone understands that?

Things spiral out of control and her roommate, Lily, seems to be heading towards a serious drinking problem, but Andy simply doesn't have the time - she has to be at work at 7am and is often expected to work until after 11pm. She barely has time for sleep, let alone relationships.Whilst The Devil Wears Prada is delightfully sharp and funny, it is also rather sweet.

I thought the end was a little too saccharine but, if I'm honest, I loved it and wouldn't have it any other way. The characters are excellent and the relationships intricate and realistic - I certainly get the impression that they're crafted from observation - from the horror of Miranda to the tense relationship between Andy and Emily, the head assistant. It certainly gives the flavour of working for a fashion magazine, even if I do suspect that a lot of it is exaggerated - at least, I hope it's exaggerated….Don't be put off if you're not into fashion - Andy isn't either.

Whilst the fashion industry provides the perfect cut-throat setting, it's still perfectly enjoyable if you don't know your French Connection from your Fendi. You probably won't learn a lot about fashion from this either, except perhaps never to reply "mine" when someone asks you whose shoes you're wearing.

The plot becomes a little predictable in places, but that's forgivable and the characters more than make up for it - it certainly doesn't suffer for its few slips into sentimental 'made for TV movie' territory. Over all, The Devil Wears Prada is smart, sassy and surprisingly sweet.
Buy it here for 12,00 euros

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