I recently read another book by Candace Bushnell (Trading Up, which I did a review on) and wasn't particularly enamoured with it. Because of that, I was a bit wary of this one seeing as it's by the same author and authors tend to write in a similar style across all of their books. Still, I liked the sound of the blurb on the inside of the sleeve so I figured I'd got nothing much to lose by borrowing this from the local library.
***A BIT OF BACKGROUND***
The title of 'One Fifth Avenue' refers to a prestigious building in New York in which the central characters all live. It was once a grand house that has since been split up into luxury apartments that cost millions of dollars to buy. With this in mind, you probably won't be very surprised at the descriptions of some of the residents/characters as it's an apartment complex that is going to attract a certain class and style of people.
***THE PLOT CHARACTERS***
MINDY is head of the board at One Fifth. She is married to struggling author JAMES, who isn't bringing in as much money as she'd like. When hedge fund genius PAUL and his lawyer wife ANNALISA move into the building and take over the apartment that used to belong to Mrs Louise Houghton, it's war between Mindy and Paul. He's not interested in doing things by the book and thinks his vast wealth can achieve anything.
LOLA is a spoilt little rich girl with big dreams of fame and fortune. She moves to New York in the hope of becoming a somebody and latches onto PHILIP, another author - who is becoming much more successful than James. Lastly, there's ENID, Philip's aunt and a long-time gossip columnist who has resided in the building for some time.
Whereas the characters in Trading Up were quite annoying, I had no gripes with the characters here. Lola was the most annoying character as she was selfish, manipulative and self-absorbed but even she wasn't a character that I particularly disliked. Paul is another of the less likeable characters as he came across as a bit shady but again, not a character that I hated by any stretch.
The book is written in the third person and as is typical of books featuring multiple characters, it frequently flits between them. Even though the book is quite long (or at least the hardbook version that I borrowed from the library was), I didn't feel that I got to know some of the characters very well at all and this was probably because the narrative is moving between so many different characters. As well as the characters that I've mentioned, it also focuses some paragraphs on more peripheral characters such as BILLY (who knows quite a few of the residents of One Fifth Avenue), CONNIE and SANDY (friends of Paul and Annalisa) so there is a lot going on and to me, it felt detrimental to full character development.
The chapters were all quite long but as each section focused on different characters/situations, you don't necessarily need to get to the end of a chapter to feel like you can put the book down as you can just put it down at the end of a specific section instead.
This was by no means a terrible book but it was just lacking something for me and I never fully got involved with the characters or the plot. I didn't actively dislike any of the characters but at the same time, I found myself not really caring what happened to them so there was no sense of urgency to get to the end. I was randomly picking the book up, reading a few sections and then putting it back down without ever feeling the urge to carry on reading to see what happened. As this is the second Candace Bushnell book that I've been mostly indifferent to, I'm going to chalk it up as not getting on with her writing style and leave the rest of her books alone I think! There's nothing particularly awful about her books but they're not for me.
One Fifth Avenue is the latest novel from Candace Bushnell, author of the book that was the basis for the supremely popular 'Sex And The City' television series and film. I have to be honest, I did try to read 'Sex And The City', but after three attempts I gave up. I hate to start a book and not finish it (in fact this is probably only the third time I've done it), but I just couldn't get interested in the characters or get used to the mish-mash style of the chapters, despite the fact that I have watched, and often enjoyed, the TV series. So, it was with a certain amount of reluctance that I started to read 'One Fifth Avenue' and wow, what a difference!
Number One, Fifth Avenue is a coveted address in New York. It is a grand and intricate old house with bucket-loads of history that has now been split into various-sized apartments, occupied by a vast array of characters from eccentric old super rich ladies to under-published writers. Candace Bushnell's novel tells the story of the inhabitants and how their lives interact and sometimes even clash with catastrophic results.
Miss Louise Houghton is the rich lady who lives in the penthouse apartment at the top of the building. She has lived a long and colourful life, but leaves a mysterious legacy behind.
Annalisa is the reluctant socialite that moves into Miss Houghton's apartment courtesy of her genius husbands newly acquired millionaire status. But will she be able to fit in with the old guard of One Fifth Avenue, or will the 'new money' prove simply too unpopular?
Schiffer Diamond is a 40-something actress who moves back to One Fifth Avenue after twenty years in Hollywood. As glamorous and beautiful as she was when she left, will she be able to pick up her old life, just where she left it?
Lola is the young and arrogant poor little rich girl that wants nothing more than to get famous quick. She sees One Fifth Avenue as the answer and will stop at nothing to get in, especially when her family lose all their money and personal gain becomes her sole motivation.
Mindy is the bitter housewife of an unsuccessful writer, who works hard to maintain her position in the building. But she spends all her time being jealous of everyone else and involving herself in everyone else's business. But has she gone too far this time in waging war on the building's richest inhabitants?
Finally, Enid is the grand-dame of the building. She has lived here the longest and wants nothing more than to maintain the building's exclusive status. She quietly observes the goings-on in One Fifth Avenue and steps in where necessary.
Bushnell has produced a seriously enjoyable group of characters here, all with their own beliefs, desires and methods, but all with one shared interest. Her characters are larger than life and exaggerated, but in a somehow believable way. I found that I liked them all and I found myself wanting them all to succeed in achieving their personal goals. The characters are a group of people that come together in unusual circumstances and their lives criss-cross in a intricate and fascinating way that will keep you hooked until the end.
This is the first time for a long time that I've read a chick-lit book like this and found myself totally involved in the story. I was torn between wanting to read the book quickly to find out what happens and wanting to read it slowly so that it would last longer. Every time I put the book down, it was a chore. This is quite unusual for this type of book, in my personal opinion. I always enjoy chick-lit, but in an easy reading putdownable kind of way. I found this one addictive. It is escapism in its highest form - giving you albeit a fictional insight into the world of the rich and famous, but showing that it isn't all parties and glamour.
So, I would seriously recommend this to all you chick-lit lovers out there. It's fast, furious and funny. In fact Elle magazine couldn't have put it better with their description: 'Another delicious slice of Manhattan. Insightful, with lashings of gossip and glamour.'