The Devil Wears Prada had a strong influence on me. Author Lauren Weisberger’s snappy, exciting writing inspired me to tackle fiction. The Devil Wears Prada, as you probably know, became a hit movie starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway. It’s clever, sharp and its characters crackle with life.
Weisberger’s latest novel, Last Night at Chateau Marmont, is none of those things. In fact, the only reason I even finished it is because I bought the darn thing in hardcover and I was determined to try to get my money’s worth!
The story centres on Brooke and Julian, a five-years-married couple living in New York. Brooke is a dietician whose work gratefully gets mostly passing mentions because it’s so boring (as told in this story, anyway) this aspiring writer wondered why that particular vocation was even selected for her. She has worked two jobs for several years while Julian prepared his first album, which becomes an overnight smash, keeping him away for weeks at a time and threatening their marriage as the papparazi descend on them and pictures of Julian and another woman surface on the dreaded Page Six.
Brooke is supposed to be a sympathetic victim to her husband’s newfound fame but not a single credible reason is presented for her attachment to her deathly dull career. She comes off like a stick-in-the-mud who has an inflated sense of her own importance in the working world. “Go to Europe with your husband, you twit”, I wanted to yell, when Brooke dug in her heels to stay behind and counsel a sullen teen with the mildest of eating disorders. Julian was supposed to seem selfish and dismissive of her career. Then again, the story was supposed to be enthralling. Lots of things were supposed to happen!
I wanted to give up on this flat and listless story a half-dozen times but like the newly crowned king of soft rock hanging in there with his crabby wife, I hung in there hoping it would start to sparkle like The Devil Wears Prada. It never did. What it did do is get soft and soppy and entirely predictable. Potentially juicy loose-ends (who was feeding the tabloid press stories about the couple, including their private phone numbers?) concluded as dull afterthoughts with no twist or surprise. I bought Last Night at Chateau Marmont based on Weisberger’s previous work and it’s clear that this run-on-sentence of a novel was published for the same reason. Unfortunately it doesn’t have a fraction of the charm of her earlier book. Pity.