Fun, fizzy plot makes for a perfect beach read
It’s been 15 years since the publication of Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada, the divinely catty novel set in the offices of Runway magazine, chronicling the trials of Andy Sachs and her wicked Anna Wintour-like editor, Miranda Priestly.
The 2006 film adaptation, starring Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep, became a pop-culture sensation, and in 2013, Weisberger delivered a sequel, Revenge Wears Prada, charting Andy’s career post-Runway. It was met with lukewarm reviews.
In this third addition to the series, it’s Emily Charlton (a fan favourite, played by Emily Blunt in the film) who takes centre stage. Published in the US under the much cleverer title When Life Gives You Lululemons, the novel follows Emily’s attempt to salvage her career as a Hollywood image consultant, threatened by the rise of social media-savvy digital natives.
When she is called urgently to New York only to be dumped by a Justin Bieber-esque client for her millennial rival Olive Belle, Emily panics and heads to the suburbs of Greenwich, Connecticut, to visit her childhood friend Miriam.
Miriam, who left her role as a high-powered lawyer after having children, is struggling to adapt to suburban life and integrate with the Lululemon-clad yummy mummies. Through Miriam, Emily is introduced to former supermodel Karolina Hartwell, now the wife of a US senator. Karolina is in trouble, wrongly accused of driving under the influence and humiliated by her husband on live TV. There’s more to the story there, and it’s exactly what Emily needs to revive her dwindling career.
Unfortunately, Emily doesn’t seem to be very good at PR. She may credit herself with crisis-managing the Brangelina split and Caitlyn Jenner’s transition, but it was no surprise to me that her Bieber Lite client ditched her upon hearing her daft plans on how to spin an ill-advised Nazi costume.
What struck me was how unnecessary the Devil Wear Prada association is. There’s no real need for this novel to feature Emily Charlton and not Emily Smith. Andy and Miranda make brief, uninspired appearances, with Miranda’s proving especially disappointing. She is a pale imitation of her iconic former self, and despite triggering a crucial plot point, she feels inessential to the story.
Otherwise, Weisberger has a sharp, witty eye when it comes to skewering the super-rich, and her revelations about the Greenwich housewives, their outlandish parties and their cosmetic surgery (including gruesome ‘custom-fit’ vaginas) are particularly memorable. The Wives is very, very funny — so long as you can tolerate Emily’s acidic barbs.
Along with the breezy plot, the bond between the three women is well-rendered, and Weisberger offsets the froth with insightful commentary on motherhood, marriage and insecurities about ageing.
You couldn’t ask for a better beach read.
FICTION The Wives Lauren Weisberger
HarperCollins, hardback, 416 pages, €15.99