With a brilliant comic voice as well as Jane Austen's penchant for social satire, Candace Bushnell, who with Sex and the City changed forever how we view New York City, female friendships, and the love of a good pair of Manolos, now brings us a sharply observant, keenly funny, wildly entertaining latter day comedy of manners. Modern-day heroine Janey ...
With a brilliant comic voice as well as Jane Austen's penchant for social satire, Candace Bushnell, who with Sex and the City changed forever how we view New York City, female friendships, and the love of a good pair of Manolos, now brings us a sharply observant, keenly funny, wildly entertaining latter day comedy of manners. Modern-day heroine Janey Wilcox is a lingerie model whose reach often exceeds her grasp, and whose new-found success has gone to her head. As we follow Janey's adventures, Bushnell draws us into a seemingly glamorous world of $100,000 cars, hunky polo players and media moguls, Fifth Avenue apartments, and relationships whose hidden agendas are detectable only by the socially astute. But just as Janey enters this world of too much money and too few morals, unseen forces conspire to bring her down, forcing her to reexamine her values about love and friendship-and how far she's really willing to go to realize her dreams.
Janey Wilcox is an M.A.W. (that's Model/Actress/Whatever to the uninitiated). The problem with Janey, the protagonist of Candace Bushnell's first novel, Trading Up, is not the M or the A part. It's the W. Here is a rare alphabetical anomaly: In Janey's case, W stands for "prostitute." Oh, Janey never crosses the line into actual hookerdom, but she does sleep with extremely wealthy men in the hopes they'll improve her status, her financial situation, or her lifestyle. When we first met Janey in Bushnell's novella collection 4 Blondes, she was up to her usual tricks (so to speak)--scamming a guy for a Hamptons vacation rental. At the opening of Trading Up, her fortunes have improved. She's now the star of a Victoria's Secret ad campaign, and as such she's found access to undreamed-of echelons of New York society. She makes friends with Mimi Kilroy, a senator's daughter "at the very top of the social heap in New York." She gets invited to all the best parties. And she finally finds a wealthy man who will actually marry her: Seldon Rose, a powerful entertainment industry executive. Of course, Janey's social ambitions are not stoppered by her marriage to Seldon, and the clash between her expectations (more parties!) and his (normal life) send Janey into a tailspin that leads to heartbreak. Bushnell is clearly trying to channel Edith Wharton (The Custom of the Country is even invoked by Janey as a screenplay idea), but ends up sounding a lot more like a cross between Tama Janowitz and Judith Krantz. This is a novel about shopping and sex, and while it's fizzy enough, it's not Cristal.
From Publishers Weekly
"It was the beginning of the summer of the year 2000, and in New York City, where the streets seemed to sparkle with the gold dust filtered down from a billion trades in a boomtown economy, it was business as usual." In other words, it is business as usual for bestselling author Bushnell (Sex and the City; 4 Blondes), who expands here on the career of shallow, predatory Janey Wilcox. In 4 Blondes, Wilcox was a mildly famous one-time model who bedded men based on their ability to provide her with a great house in the Hamptons for the summer. Now she has become a Victoria's Secret model, a bona fide success in her own right. As the latest summer in the Hamptons kicks off, Wilcox becomes the new best friend of the socialite Mimi Kilroy, who is eager to introduce beautiful Janey to the very rich Selden Rose, the new head of the HBO-like MovieTime. Unlike Janey's many previous hookups, Selden is the marrying kind. What ensues is a grim if well-observed account of a match made in hell. Here's the problem. There is a black hole in the center of the book in the form of Janey Wilcox, a character so dull and humorless that she makes this whole elaborate enterprise one long, boring slog. Granted, Bushnell sets out to chronicle the workings of "one of those people for whom the superficial comfortingly masks an inner void," but Wilcox is not evil enough to be interesting, not talented enough to be Mr. Ripley. Wilcox proceeds from model/prostitute to "Model/Prostitute" on the cover of the Post. But who will care? Bushnell has committed the real crime here: failure to entertain.
In Four Blondes (2000), Bushnell introduced readers to Janey Wilcox, a beautiful semi-successful model (and ruthlessly determined social climber) who uses her unappealing but well-connected middle-aged boyfriends for access to New York's A-list social scene. Trading Up finds Janey, now a Victoria's Secret model, conniving her way up yet another rung of New York's slippery high-society ladder, this time with the help of glamorous old-money socialite Mimi Kilroy. Delighted with her new life at the center of the Hamptons' social whirl, Janey is determined to cement her position, and before long she marries Selden Rose, the fabulously wealthy CEO of MovieTime. Everything is perfect--but just when Janey's future seems assured, her sordid past rears up its ugly head in the shape of Comstock Dibble, a former boyfriend who's also a bitter business rival of Selden's. Four Blondes won Bushnell critical acclaim and commercial success with its razor-sharp depiction of New York high life as lived by four women. Played out in the same world of air kisses and backstabbing, Janey's story is satisfyingly dishy and as addictively readable the second time around. Expect high demand for Bushnell's latest.
Candace Bushnell ("Sex and the City") has the "chick lit" formula down pat. Her characters flounce from event to event in New York society, encountering embarrassing situations that are hilarious for the listener. For instance, Janey attempts to show Mimi what a philanderer Mimi is dating by getting him to sleep with her. (He rejects her.) Ellen Archer portrays the characters as people so privileged that their characteristic response to most anything is utter boredom. While Archer's task is to characterize that ennui, her voices could still use more inflection to be interesting. While the listener needs to concentrate to follow these stories, Archer has a talent for reading straight through scenes reminiscent of THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES with explicit professionalism. J.F.M.
The heroine of the story is Janey Wilcox, who was first introduced to readers by Candace in one of the four stories that comprise her bestselling FOUR BLONDES. But this first novel by the iconic author of SEX AND THE CITY is a stand alone novel - you don't need to have read FOUR BLONDES to read this smart, entertaining, incisive and altogether satisfying novel. Janey Wilcox has been a celebrity wannabe for much of her young life, and when we meet her in TRADING UP she has at last achieved many of her goals. She has made it big as a model for Victoria's Secret and has therefore become famous; she has at last been able to buy the car of her dreams; and has even been able to buy her own house in NY's exclusive Hamptons, which means she no longer has to choose boyfriends on the basis of who owns a Hamptons house she can summer in. While Janey has realized many of her ambitions, she hasn't yet realized all of them. She has yet to be taken seriously as an actress, and she hasn't found the man of her dreams. But that second thing, at least, is about to change. In one of the early scenes in the novel, Janey finally gets invited to the most exclusive of all Hampton parties, which means, at least to her, that she has really made it. There, she runs into some of Hollywood's leading personalities, into the creme de la creme of NY society, and also into some people from her past she'd rather not have seen again. However, in the course of the party, she is introduced to and is charmed - captivated - by a handsome, successful man who soon thereafter becomes her boyfriend. But Janey's lilfe will never be simple, both because of who she is and also because of her past somewhat not always good girlish behavior, therefore it's not long before Janey's great new life begins to fray a bit at the edges.