Fun, fizzy plot makes for a per­fect beach read

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - BOOKS - MEADHBH McGRATH

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

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