The Devil Wears Prada
by Lauren Weisberger Lauren Weisberger
Category: Fiction / General
368 pages; ISBN: 038550926X
Rating: 6/10 (Ratings explained)
Andrea Sachs is a recent college graduate who aspires to write for The New Yorker. Seeking any experience in magazines, she takes a job as the assistant to the editor of Runway, New York’s most influential fashion magazine, and finds that for hard-nosed Miranda Priestly, “assistant” actually translates to “personal slave.”
Unfortunately for Weisberger, it is inevitable that The Devil Wears Prada be compared to The Nanny Diaries. The Nanny Diaries is, at its core, not about laughing at the rich mommies—though they do provide plenty of fodder for mockery—but about their sad, neglected children, dependent upon hired help for the love and attention they really need from their parents. In essence, The Devil Wears Prada dishes up the selfish, tyrannical boss from Diaries without the gripping emotional depth of the earlier book.
Andrea Sachs is a sympathetic character, and her doomed attempts to satisfy her boss are often cringe-worthy. In addition, Weisberger displays real insight into the demoralizing carrot-and-stick treatment so many ambitious new graduates receive from exploitive corporate bosses; namely, lick my boots for a year and I might help you move up so you can exploit and humiliate people yourself someday. Weisberger’s main attempt at dramatic tension is misguided, though, because Andrea has no desire to become Miranda. She declares from the beginning that she will only work for Miranda for a year to acquire connections (and the all-important recommendation letter) and never wavers in that resolve. In fact, Andrea shows no sign whatsoever of being seduced by glamour or fashion, so when the truly horrible Miranda tells her “you remind me of myself at your age,” we have no reason to fear for Andrea’s soul, no matter how much we are encouraged to do so. Indeed, the most off-putting aspect of the book is the supporting cast of Andrea’s alcoholic best friend and sanctimonious teacher boyfriend. Both characters behave as if Andrea has abandoned them because she works 15-hour days and is too tired (or too on call for Miranda’s every whim) to spend time with them, inspiring nothing more in me than an urge to yell, “Grow up!” Many young professionals endure a year (or more) of hellish internships in their bids for success, and I fail to see why Weisberger paints Andrea as a selfish brat because she tries so hard to meet the admittedly ridiculous demands of her job. Would Andrea have the same epiphany about her own reputed selfishness if she were a medical resident?
Finally, if Weisberger wishes to indict the fashion industry for its dangerous influence on the self esteems of young girls, she does so very clumsily. In what is clearly an attempt at poignancy, she has Andrea intercept a letter to Miranda from a girl who feels fat compared to models and wants a designer dress. Instead of writing back with a lesson about superficiality or self worth, Andrea sends the girl a designer dress and sandals from her Runway stash. This bizarre mixed message exemplifies the book’s tendency to line up interesting targets but repeatedly shoot wide of the mark.