Thursday Review: The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

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The blurb:

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA gives a rich and hilarious new meaning to complaints about “The Boss from Hell.” Narrated in Andrea’s smart, refreshingly disarming voice, it traces a deep, dark, devilish view of life at the top only hinted at in gossip columns and over Cosmopolitans at the trendiest cocktail parties. From sending the latest, not-yet-in-stores Harry Potter to Miranda’s children in Paris by private jet, to locating an unnamed antique store where Miranda had at some point admired a vintage dresser, to serving lattes to Miranda at precisely the piping hot temperature she prefers, Andrea is sorely tested each and every day-and often late into the night with orders barked over the phone. She puts up with it all by keeping her eyes on the prize: a recommendation from Miranda that will get Andrea a top job at any magazine of her choosing. As things escalate from the merely unacceptable to the downright outrageous, however, Andrea begins to realize that the job a million girls would die for may just kill her. And even if she survives, she has to decide whether or not the job is worth the price of her soul.

The review:

I think this is one of the rare cases where I liked the movie better. The book was good, but I feel like the movie did a better job capturing what the author was going for.

In the movie, I got the impression that Andrea was desperate for a job, any job, that would help her career path. In the book, she could have stayed with her parents longer, but didn’t want to. Could have moved in with her boyfriend, but didn’t want to. Could have stayed on her friend’s couch, but didn’t want to. Applied to the magazine in a random daze while sick (i.e did not seek out amazing opportunity, was not even aware this *was* an amazing opportunity), got the interview, and meh, why not, decided to work there.

In the movie, her boss was the devil from the get go. In the book she had a month of boss free time where she sat around wrapping Christmas presents and learned the ropes. Honestly, her boss didn’t even seem that bad. Her requests were demanding, but Andrea seemed more irate at having to send out her dry cleaning than track down the Harry Potter book before publication. Maybe this is a problem with the book being a bit dated, but nowadays that position might not even pay. It’s not exactly unusual to graduate college, work in a competitive internship for pennies or college credit, get stressed beyond belief, have a boss from hell, and hate your life, but suck it up because that’s the job market. Andrea had this golden opportunity handed to her (she didn’t even seem to actively seek it out, which is irritating) with tons of perks and spent so much time whining about stuff that shouldn’t have bugged her, that the stuff that should have didn’t pack a punch. Plus she did SO much stuff she should have been fired for (buying four cups of coffee every day for the local homeless people on the magazine’s dime as one example), that the constant “threat” of her getting fired never felt real.

The moral of the story felt heavy handed. Sorry, it’s actually not Andrea’s responsibility to crash her career for the sake of her alcoholic friend. And anyone who has ever had any experience with real alcoholics knows it’s not about their friends or their support net, it’s about the alcoholic. No friend, no matter how great can help an alcoholic that doesn’t want to help themselves. Had Andrea actually been available all year, she wouldn’t have stopped her friends descent into darkness or whatever. She most likely would have just enabled her. But I would have had much more respect for Andy had she actually asked to rush home and been coldly shut down then quit in a fit of rage instead of the sequence of events that occurred. I would have more respect for her if she had asked. Period.

However, in the real world, where crashing with your parents for the next couple months after losing your job *isn’t* an option, she’d have to suck it up and stay in Paris for a couple days, distracted and worried, but responsible. And boyfriend guy, why schedule a trip and book a hotel room and all that stuff three weeks before the end of her internship? And by the way, I remember my first year student teaching (which as a teach for America candidate was his experience only 1,000 more hectic), an absentee significant other isn’t even on your radar.

Parents, why get so upset she hasn’t seen her nephew three weeks before the end of her internship (okay, that one’s pretty bad, but why even bring it up right then?) Andrea, why assume you can take a vacation while your boss is out of town when throughout the entire book everyone has been telling you how much work it is when she *isn’t* there and you experienced that twice? Even if she hadn’t gone to Paris, how many times did she call Emily while she was there? The conflict would have happened no matter what.

I just couldn’t figure whether or not her job was really that bad, or if Andrea was just so spoiled she didn’t know how to handle having a job. The truth was probably somewhere in the middle, but that didn’t seem to be what the story kept trying to tell me. The show and the tell sent massively different messages. Her boss sounded like a jerk, but what actually happened when Andrea couldn’t deliver her impossible demands (which occurred several times in the book)? Nothing. No consequences beyond a bit of verbal assault, which, again, wasn’t actually that bad. I’ve heard a lot worse. I’ve heard a lot of really good people who have actually had to fight tooth and nail for their job and to whom keeping said job was the difference between feeding their families or not, duck their head and put up with much worse.

Fun read, and despite my gripes about the character it actually was fun to read and well written. I enjoyed the dialogue and the descriptions. It’s a good book. I just couldn’t buy into the premise.

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