Janey is a lingerie model who enjoys trading on her beauty and sex appeal and the power that she has over men. Throughout her adult life, she's thought nothing of trading on this power to snare rich men and bag a piece of the lifestyle that she's coveted, but is it really all it's cracked up to be? From the previous two sentences, you're probably thinking that Janey is one of those characters who comes across as hugely unlikeable and you'd be right for much of the book. I couldn't say that I particularly liked her character, despite a few waves of sympathy and there was a point around three-quarters of the way in that I started to see her character as vindictive as well as manipulative and wondered if this slight sympathy was indeed misjudged. Towards the end of the book, the reasons behind her manipulative and often vindictive nature start to become a little bit apparent but aren't really delved into so she still comes across as pampered, selfish and somewhat ruthless. Despite this, she has a certain spark about her which drew me in and made me want to keep reading. Had there been no redeeming features about her at all, I probably wouldn't have lasted beyond halfway, especially as I found the book difficult to get into in the first few chapters.
Other characters in the book include Janey's friend Mimi, Janey's sister Patty, Mimi's husband George and Janey's husband Selden. I started off thinking that Mimi was a cold and rather clinical woman who had married for money rather than love but I began to warm to her at around the same time that I cooled on Janey's character. This wasn't coincidental and the two are at least vaguely related due to Janey's behaviour towards Mimi at this point in proceedings. Patty is more of a peripheral character who seems a nice enough person but only really features in relation to Janey (particularly when Janey thinks she can be useful to her) and doesn't really feature in the narrative by herself as such. Selden is initially captivated by Janey but as the book wears on, I got the impression that he wanted some kind of trophy wife and being a lingerie model, Janey fit the bill for that. His attitude towards her
The narrative concentrates predominantly on Janey, but also moves between other characters such as Mimi, Selden and George. It also moves seamlessly between the past and the present, interjecting past anecdotes and flashback-type thoughts into the present-day situations, which gives a greater understanding of the characters and how they've arrived at this point.For me, this made the narrative quite clever and it didn't feel long-winded or drawn out by flipping backwards and forwards.
Some of the characters were quite bizarrely named, in my opinion. In addition to Selden, we also have a Comstock Dibble, a Zizi and a Pippi, which makes Janey sound positively dull in comparison! It seems to be a recurring theme in books that portray the going-on of the rich and famous, which helps to see the book a bit of a parody of their real-life counterparts.
I didn't realise this at the time, but Janey seems to appear in another of Candace Bushnell's books at a slightly earlier point in her life and the events of this book are a sort of follow-on. Having not read the other book I can't say whether this needs to have been read first but I didn't feel that I'd missed anything from not having read it. I quite liked the book and was keen to see how things ended but mostly in the hope that Janey would show some genuine contrite for how she has behaved throughout her adult life, rather than the result of a gripping plot as the plot itself isn't particularly broad. Much of the book is about Janey's rise from being on the fringes of the celebrity world and social scene to eventually breaking through and getting what she's desired for so long. That said, it's the backwards and forwards of the narrative that makes for quite interesting reading as it could otherwise have been a dull read with nothing to spice things up. All in all, I liked the book but I won't rush to see if I can find any more books by the same author and you might be disappointed if you're coming to the book hoping for a Sex and the City style read (which is by the same author, in case you're not aware).
I loved the American television show Sex and the City so when I obtained Trading Up by the same author I was expecting astute observations on whatever topic was under the microscope delivered with a razor sharp wit. In fact everything that made Sex and the City fabulously entertaining.
It has all the ingredients necessary to achieve this. Janey Wilcox might have come from working class roots but both she and her sister have hit the big time. Patty is the wife of the multimillionaire musician Digger whilst Janey is the lingerie model of the moment. The face of Victoria's Secret, she has a wardrobe to die for and invitations to all the hip and happening parties, the paparazzi love her and the men fall at her feet, those that haven't previously fallen into and out of bed with her. The story follows Janeys progression through the higher echelons of the New York social scene until she become the person to be seen with but as always pride comes before a fall and when the rich fall they fall fast and hard.
The devil as they say is in the detail and this lacks detail. Janey might inhabit the millionaires playground but there's alack of imagination when it comes to the toys as if the authors research didn't extend as far as crossing the hand tooled wooden deck of the luxury yacht or the customised interior of a private Jet. Janey seems to leap on and off these items much like a world weary traveller endures cattle crate on a 747.
There's plenty of scope for the buzz of a fashion shoot or the bitchiness behind the scenes of a cat walk show where the models are clad in minimal attire but the focus ins on the diamond encrusted bikini rather than the nerves of a woman who is about to bare her practically naked body to the world at large.
Then there are the names of the characters. I know the rich and famous have a habit of labelling their offspring with rather obscure names which would guarantee ridicule on any normal playground but Comstock Dibble is quite simply too bizarre for words and irritatingly so. It's very hard to engage with a character whose name makes you want to laugh each time you read it no matter how powerful the person is supposed to be.
It was vaguely enjoyable although not in the same league as Sex and the City but I won't be rushing out to find any of Ms Bushnell's other titles.