It’s all been downhill since Lauren Weisberger’s successful 2003 bestselling debut novel The Devil Wears Prada (whose film adaptation is even more successful and beloved than the novel—or supposed roman a clef—was). Her second novel Everyone Worth Knowing was fun and readable though hardly substantial, but her third novel Chasing Harry Winston is quite possibly her worst book to date (even more so than the drivel that is Revenge Wears Prada). However, as terrible as the book Harry Winston is in textual form, a curious thing happens when you listen to the audiobook: it becomes highly entertaining and engaging!
Chasing-Harry-Winston-275375The audiobook is voiced by Lily Rabe, who is singlehandedly the reason the book is so successful in this format. Rabe dives into the story, bringing unique voicing to the trio of women who serve as protagonists for the novel. Her Emmy is squeaky and unsure of herself going into her thirties as a recently dumped single woman. Adriana comes off as chic and confident and endlessly entertaining with Rabe’s deep, throaty, sultry voice for the character—sounding like a completely different person. And Leigh, in Rabe’s “normal voice,” is the stubborn one whose struggles with her impending marriage and her job as an editor feel the most fleshed out and relatable. Overall, Rabe sounds like she is having so much fun acting out the story that you can’t help but enjoy it, even at its most eye-roll-inducing.
And Harry Winston induces eye-rolls in spades. The crux of the novel involves these three women make a pact to change their lives—through anonymous sex or hunting for a serious relationship—which sounds like the beginning of any romantic comedy ever. And the story’s devolution into a mash-up of clichés merely begins there. While blessedly spared of extraneous details and dialogue that make reading the book so tedious, the abridged audiobook actually feels too short and quick. That’s how incredible Lily Rabe is. She actually leaves you wanting more from Entertainment Weekly’s “#1 Worst Book of 2008.”
I will forever love and read Lauren Weisberger if only for the nostalgia of when I first read her novels and loved them with all the joy of a guilty pleasure. But her novels translate better into audiobooks, letting strong actresses (like Merritt Wever!!) bring out the best, entertaining aspects of the novel. And Chasing Harry Winston is such a treat as an audiobook.


Helen Fielding Will Make You Just MAD ABOUT BRIDGET JONES All Over Again

This year has seen a slew of high profile authors releasing sequels to their iconic novels (Stephen King, John Grisham, Lauren Weisberger). So Helen Fielding’s follow-up to her Bridget Jones books seems to be perfectly timed. Since Edge of Reason was released in 1998, a lot has happened in Bridget’s life. Fielding has updated Bridget to the present day, and created some controversial storytelling in the process.
bridget-jones-mad-about-the-boy1It’s been four years since Bridget’s husband Mark Darcy died, leaving her with their two children, Billy and Mabel. Her recovery from this tragedy has been a long process, but her friends insist on pushing her to start dating again. And just like that, our old friend Bridget is back. She goes on a diet, joins Twitter, and starts writing a screenplay—bumbling and fumbling through it all in true Bridget fashion.
While most of Britain was in an uproar at the death of Darcy, I feel that it was a smart move. Bridget has always been about her troubles with men, so it would make sense to have her dating once again. And this way we get to keep a pure memory of Darcy and don’t resent Bridget’s new loves—although her dating a younger man is equally controversial. But her toy boy Roxster (whom she meets through Twitter) is a charming match, and they have exceptional chemistry in the novel—even though it is a bit juvenile.
Where Mad About the Boy falters, though, is in the overall storytelling. Bridget’s struggles with social media and texting are spot on, but so much of her mom drama and screenplay ineptitudes are long drawn out. Far too much time is spent dealing with a bout of head lice. And Fielding seems to have reached a new record for the number of times a book has used the word fart. Despite this, Bridget’s shorter diary entries—no longer constrained to the month-by-month format—help move the story along much faster.
As someone very plugged into the pop culture of the moment, I found this entry in the series the most accessible. Her humor really shines through in this novel more so than in the previous ones. It was impossible for me to read this book without a huge grin on my face. I definitely recommend any fan of Bridget Jones to pick up a copy ASAP.

THE HUSBAND’S SECRET Is Not Worth Learning

husbands-secret-1-240When Cecilia finds a letter by her (very alive) husband that’s not to be opened until after he has died, she immediately faces a dilemma that we know will end with her reading the contents of that letter. Unfortunately, it will be another 200 pages before the secret contained in that letter is revealed. And therein lies one of the many problems with Liane Moriarty’s newest novel The Husband’s Secret.

As Cecilia struggles with her little dilemma, distracting her from her hyper-organized life, Tess learns of her own husband’s secret. He has fallen in love with Tess’ best friend (and close cousin). Tess lets the two deal with their feelings while she jaunts off to her mother’s house and takes up with an ex-boyfriend. Connor, the ex, is already on Rachel’s radar as the potential murderer of her daughter 30 years previously. Thus all the characters’ lives intertwine in this contrived chick lit thriller.

Yes, The Husband’s Secret, is a chick lit thriller. While not fully intentional by Moriarty, there is a menace lurking in the background of this novel. From the overused references to the Berlin Wall (which start out as an astute reference and slowly turn trite) to the unsolved murder of Rachel’s daughter, it’s clear that something violent will occur in the climax—there are just some 200 pages in the middle to slug through before arriving there.

Moriarty has created two compelling heroines—Cecilia and Tess—trapped in a sea of one-dimensional characters. But as she haphazardly switches perspectives from page to page, it becomes difficult to track which character we are with (especially since she refers to the numerous female characters by their Christian names which all blend together in one’s mind). And, as she juggles these three main plotlines, the story remains simplistic and clichéd. Whereas a novel focused on just one or two of the characters could have been developed into something more complex and fulfilling.

Ultimately this is a distracting enough novel to accompany you at the beach but lacks enough depth to be fully engaging elsewhere.