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.


“Revenge Wears Prada” Is a Book Served Lukewarm

revenge-wears-prada_510x770Fans of The Devil Wears Prada have been eagerly anticipating Lauren Weisberger’s follow-up novel (or at least some of them have). Weisberger herself has said that she’s been eager to revisit her beloved characters from her hit debut novel—even going so far as to say that she’s forgotten where her characters end and the film’s characters begin. And so Revenge Wears Prada was conceived. Unfortunately, it seems that the Prada brand is fading.

It’s been almost 10 years since Andy Sachs told Miranda Priestly to “fuck off” in Paris, and Andy’s life hasn’t turned out so bad. She is the editor-in-chief of the high glamour wedding magazine The Plunge with publisher Emily Charlton (yes, that Emily), who also happens to be Andrea’s current BFF. And she is about to marry the handsome, society darling Max Harrison. Yet she is still haunted by that damn ringtone (and rightfully so).

But there are some surprises lurking in Andy’s future. Since Weisberger (and even the novel’s inside flap) have been mum about what happens beyond the first chapter, I’ll refrain from many “spoilers.” Amidst a series of personal surprises, Andy faces a very important business surprise in the form of the devil herself, Miranda. Now the head of Elias-Clarke (and still editor-in-chief of Runway), Miranda is intent on adding The Plunge to Elias-Clarke’s catalog, a thought that gives Andy night tremors. Now Andy must face some life-changing decisions in a whorl of contradictory advice from her friends and family.

And therein lies the biggest problem with Revenge Wears Prada. Andy’s decision regarding Miranda’s acquisition of The Plunge is the backbone of the entire novel. Except that for Andy, it’s an easy answer: no. She never again wants to be working for Miranda, at her every beck and call and whim, losing all creative control of this magazine that she built from the ground up. Unfortunately, Andy is too meek, too people-pleasing to straight-up confront Emily about their conflicting ideas regarding the magazine’s future. Instead, she postpones the decision for over 200 pages, resulting in a very dramatic climax that comes far too late in the game to redeem the story.

While I enjoyed catching up with all the characters—and I especially enjoyed the budding friendship between Andy and Emily—the story itself gets lost in all the mess. Weisberger stalls Andy, inserting throwaway stories about celebrity brides being interviewed for the magazine that resemble her other novels more than the world of Prada. She does attempt to instill some of that Runway glamour into the novel, but those parties and events are weighed down by all of Andy’s insufferable fretting and rehashing of feelings. You want to just scream at her to make a decision (instead of standing there stuck “on the steps of the palace”).

There are certainly some great chapters intermixed with the bad that will appease and entertain fans of Weisberger and/or Prada, but the book certainly doesn’t feel cinematic enough to warrant it’s own filmic adaptation. And the title Revenge appears to be a misnomer as there is no one seeking malicious vengeance (even though I spent the entire novel predicting devious motivations for Miranda’s actions). Revenge Wears Prada is a disappointing sequel and a disappointing addition to Weisberger’s writing.