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#BookReview: Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns by Lauren Weisberger
I really like Lauren Weisberger — a lot. I had an opportunity to meet her a few years ago at Barnes and Noble for a reading of her novel Last Night at Chateau Marmont, and we chatted about everything from her non-Devil Wears Prada works to the fact that as children we both wanted to be astronauts. She was a very lovely person, and we even became Facebook friends soon thereafter.
But for as much as I love Ms. Weisberger, I cannot say the same for her main characters. From Last Night’s Brooke to Everyone Worth Knowing’s Bette, Weisberger asks us to follow the misadventures of shrill, privileged white women who tend to whine about the good fortune bestowed upon them. And in her pantheon of characters, there’s no bigger offender than Andrea “Andy” Sachs.
Of course, you already know who Andy is — the heroine of Weisberger’s blockbuster debut The Devil Wears Prada, the story about an awkward young woman who ends up working as personal assistant to the most powerful and influential person in fashion, the godlike editor-in-chief of the fictional Runway magazine, Miranda Priestly. What made the novel a success was the fact that it was a roman a clef, based on Weisberger’s tenure as assistant to Vogue EIC Anna Wintour. The Devil Wears Prada was titillating, salacious, the sort of tome that promised to expose the ice queen who lorded over all of fashion publishing. The novel’s stock rose further with the well-loved (and toned-down) film version starring the amazing Meryl Streep and
But here’s the thing: Andy Sachs, Weisberger’s author avatar, is a, quite simply, whiny brat. She is not at all appreciative of the job she’s landed — a job that a million girls would kill for — nor the opportunities and perks it affords her. Sure, Miranda is a sociopath of the highest order, but Andy’s constant “woe-is-me” rich girl bellyaching did very little to endear me to the character.
She doesn’t fare any better in Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns, a needless sequel that was clearly conceived as a quick money-grab for all parties involved. The story takes places 10 years after the events of the first book: after a stint writing for a wedding blog, Andy and her former-nemesis-turned-BFF Emily Charlton have launched a high-profile, glossy wedding magazine called The Plunge. Despite the decline of print media, The Plunge has done exceptionally well, largely in part to Andy’s editorial skills and Emily’s behind-the-scenes cunning. Further, Andy is engaged to the handsome Max Harrison, scion to a media empire and one of The Plunge’s initial investors.
Everything seems to be going well for Andy, right? Well, guess what? In true Weisberger Heronie fashion, she complains about everything in her life. Everything is such an unmitigated disaster. Her future mother-in-law doesn’t like her. Her ex-boyfriend Alex, who now lives across the country, might have a new girlfriend. Oh, and a decade later Andy is suffering from PTSD after time working under Miranda. Her loving fiancé is always on hand to comfort her, and the non-nonsense Emily constantly tells her to snap out of it. But it’s just so hard for Andy to do so — can’t everyone see how tragic her life is?
The first half of Revenge is a slog, filling us in on the past 10 years of Andy’s life and letting her complain about everything from her fairytale marriage to the birth of her beautiful baby girl Clementine. Then, finally, a nascent plot begins to form: Elias-Clark, the media conglomerate that owns Runway, is interested in acquiring The Plunge. For millions of dollars. Everyone — Emily, Max, every fucking one — seems to be on board for this. Everyone except, of course, Andy. Why? Because Miranda Priestly now oversees editorial over all of Elias-Clark’s publications, and the sale would mean that Andy would, once again, be under her employ.
I will admit, the second half of Revenge is entertaining and contains plot twists (some predictable, others surprising) that eventually help wrap things up in a nice, tidy manner. And many of the characters, aside from Andy, are engaging and memorable. Especially Emily, who is appropriately catty, but that’s only because she sees the endgame. Shit must get done, and she will ensure that it does.
Those hoping to see a true clash between Andy and Miranda will be disappointed, however. Miranda appears maybe three or four times in the entire novel; her brief appearances are really when the story comes to life, and while she really isn’t the story’s villain (no, she really isn’t) one still feels a palpable sense of dread whenever she’s on the page. The dinner at her house is certainly one of the novel’s high points: tense and hilarious, it’s the sort of scenario you wished Revenge had more of.
Weisberger threw in a few lines that hinted at a potential third volume in the series, but I think it’s best to let these characters go at this point. After all, there’s only so much whining about good fortune that readers can stand. The Devil may return again, but then again, only the devil may care.