October 9, 2008

Chasing Harry Winston

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While I really do love “chick lit,” I strongly believe that it has two distinct categories: the good and the really, really bad. Unfortunately, the newest novel from Lauren Weisberger ’99, Chasing Harry Winston, falls in the latter category. Yes, Weisberger is a Cornell alumna, so I feel terrible about trashing her work. But let that go to show just how unfortunate the book is, because I am going to trash it anyway.
Weisberger’s novel centers around three not-quite-30-year-old women living in the fabulous backdrop of — guess where? I bet you guessed it — Manhattan. And guess what they spend all their time moping about? Men. In fact, the only difference between Chasing Harry Winston and Sex and the City is that the women are in their late-20s instead of mid-40s, and there are three instead of four of them.
Actually, Weisberger’s characters are painstakingly reminiscent of the Sex and the City gals. Gorgeous Adriana is obsessed with sex and prefers it to real relationships. Emmy is easily heartbroken and pre-occupied with marriage. Leigh is work-driven and has not figured out what she wants in life. The only one missing from Weisberger’s crew is Miranda, arguably the most unique character of Sex and the City. Hence, Chasing Harry Winston is SATC minus Miranda. In other words, it’s a big fat bore.
The plot begins with a pact made by Adriana and Emmy: Adriana will be in a monogamous relationship for a year, and Emmy will sleep with as many men as she can while traveling. This is called a “Tour de Whore.” Duh.
Leigh somehow gets away without making any deal. Whether this is supposed to represent her inability to see what she is missing in life, or is just a result of Weisberger’s momentary oversight with an increasingly annoying character, I cannot tell you. Leigh starts out promising, as she is the only one who cares about anything other than men (even if this “other” is a job that she compulsively obsesses over). However, her increasing discontentment with a seemingly perfect boyfriend eventually culminates in the displacement of her passion for her job by a passion for the sexy writer she is assigned to edit. Enter boredom.
Emmy is stereotypically obsessed with getting married before her biological clock ticks out. I found myself momentarily thrilled for her when, after her ex-boyfriend asks her to come back, she (gasp!) refuses his offer. Then she finds the new love of her life on her travels, surely female empowerment at its best.
Adriana is undoubtedly the most entertaining of the three, even if she’s a recycled character. Unlike her predecessors, however, Adriana never experiences growth. Overall, it’s difficult to care about any of the women in Winston.
This is not to say that Chasing Harry Winston is not entertaining. It’a just that I expected more from the author who wrote The Devil Wears Prada and the lesser-known but more compelling Everyone Worth Knowing. I (embarrassingly) could give you a list of books in the chick lit category that are much more worthy of your time.