81 You Need A Hobby
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Dor

Dor Does Books

Oh, hai! I read books, then I write down what I think of them. 

 

 

SPOILER ALERT!

Stick with the film - The Devil wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

The Devil wears Prada - Lauren Weisberger

Although Chick Lit is not enough of my sort of thing for me to have ventured past the biggest names of the genre, I do like it when I'm in the mood. One cannot always be reading Aristotle in the original Greek; one deserves some downtime. 

 

This one got picked up because I *really* like the film and because (as ever) it was 99p. I wasn't expecting a great deal from it, just something fun I'd be done with in a couple of days. Instead, I got something "fun" I was done with in a couple of days but the irritation of which will live with me for a long, long time.

 

I'm going to assume you've either read this, or seen the film and will be talking freely about what happens in it. It's a bit rich to call them spoilers because it doesn't spoil anything: there's barely a plot and there are only technical consequences (by which I mean, there's no actual tension).

 

The single biggest irritant in this book is the protagonist: Andy Sachs. She is a freshly minted college graduate who dreams of working at The New Yorker. Instead, she finds herself gainfully employed as assistant to Miranda Priestly, editor of high fashion magazine Runway and the most demanding woman in the city. Andy doesn't know anything about fashion, or Runway, or Miranda, and she doesn't think it's important, but she gets the job she is repeatedly told "a million girls would die for" anyway. She takes it because if you can work a year for Miranda without getting fired, Miranda will use her connections to help you get the job you want.

 

I wanted to slap Andy into next week.

 

Leaving aside her unwillingness to do the grind for the job she wants (because her acquisition of the Runway job is handled smoothly enough by the book for that to be an afterthought), she is arrogant, entitled, privileged, and a narcissist. 

 

1) She holds everything about Runway in contempt. 

 

In the film version, there is a pitch perfect speech delivered by Miranda which explains to Andy why Runway and high fashion is inescapable: even if you only buy your clothes at K-mart, those clothes are designed in imitation of what is happening at the magazine. Andy may not be interested or think it's important, but it does effect her. 

 

That speech is not here. There is no equivalent. Even when Andy's attitude is called out by her co-worker Emily, it is undermined by Emily's near hysteria regarding the importance of the topic.

 

b) Andy abuses the perks of her job and it's perfectly fine because her boss is so unpleasant.

 

Miranda is a ridiculous person to work for. She is malicious, vindictive, and deliberately gives misinformation to her assistants because she can. The entire staff is terrified of her. She is not suppossed to be a good person.

 

Andy takes coffee runs as an opportunity to call her boyfriend, or her mate, or her parents. She buys extra coffees, charges them to the company, and hands them out to homeless people. She wildly overtips taxi drivers and puts it on her expenses. She sighs and huffs and generally make it very clear she thinks it's all a waste of time. At the very end of the book, she sells the designer clothes she was given for the Paris trip - the ones she does not own and doesn't try to return.

 

Andy *is* a good person (she wants to do something *relevant*, not fashion) so, of course, it's fine; not theft or anything like that.

 

The reason this annoys me so very much is that Miranda sticks to the rules: yes, she is horrible to Andy, she is an absolute nightmare to work for and unapologetic about it, but she offers Andy the opportunity to write some articles and it's made clear she's going to work her contacts to get Andy the job she wants. That was the deal and Miranda is going to stick to it.

 

 

iii) Andy is a martyr.

 

This was the part which annoyed me the most. 

 

Andy is the single most important person in her world. Everything is about her. Her, her job, what she wants, what she thinks.

 

Also, her friend Lily's issues. That's about Andy, too. Andy hasn't been there enough for Lily, she hasn't spoken to her about the problems, so when they naturally get worse, that's Andy's fault. 

 

Also, her boyfriend problems. Andy works 14 hour days and is on call 24/7, but it's her fault she doesn't spend enough time with her young man. And then, when he asks her to call him at 3:30pm and she doesn't because she, yannow, doing her job, that's her fault too. And when he tells her how upset he is, and starts refusing to tell her why he wanted her to call so she has to beg him to tell her, and THAT'S HER FAULT TOO. 

 

That's the bit which broke me.

 

IV) The book (via the medium of Andy) fails to recognise the way she is systematically abused - except when it's by Miranda.

 

Andy is not just Miranda's victim. She is body shamed by everybody from her co-workers to the woman who works the till in the cafeteria.

 

The security guys won't buzz her in unless she performs a song for them, usually when she is at her most harried and clutching 18 different items. They continue to do it to her successor and it's all fun and games. Never mind that in the real world it is abusive bullying (clues involve the acute distress involved and the powerlessness of the victim: Andy has no choice if she wants to get into the building to do her job), it's fun. Exclamation mark.

 

Look at the way her boyfriend treats her. Then there is the swanky New York author who yanks his connections and lo: she is at the party he wanted her at so he could spend some time with her. She's not annoyed though - well she is, but with Miranda who only gave her 18.2 seconds to get ready.

 

There is a real theme of controlling Andy developing here, except the only person who is wrong to do it is ... Miranda. The men, well, they're just being nice, or having fun, or anything else you want to call it. 

 

The final straw on this matter? That Andy finally quits because Miranda says Andy reminds her of herself. Because being Miranda is the single worst thing Andy can imagine. Not for any practical reason, but because Miranda is such a horrible person.

 

 

 

There are plenty of other complaints to level - the storyline is barely existent and is shown up by some of the changes made to the film; there is ableist language; it actually does read like a thinly veiled rant about Weisberger's former employer; the fact that even at the very VERY end of the book, when Andy is trying to sell articles, she is *still* dismissive of them and their value because they're not Very Serious Journalism.

 

The film took this idea, gave it a story, gave it some great characters, gave Miranda a three dimensional personality, and made something fun. This book is not fun. Even without the problems I had with Andy, there's not really anything here to like. I give it 1 star, but you can privately raise it to 2 (not very good) if you can't understand what my problem is.