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Some Books I Didn’t Finish Reading: The Debutante Divorcée by Plum Sykes

I really enjoyed Plum Sykes’ first novel, Bergdorf Blondes. I realize that it’s not Crime and Punishment, it’s not Ulysses, it’s not even Outlander, but I feel that it succeeds on its own terms. I cannot say the same about the Vogue editor’s sophomore effort.

The Debutante DivorcéeIf The Debutante Divorcée accomplishes anything, it makes it easier to quantify what was good about Bergdorf Blondes. For example, the new novel’s heroine, Sylvie Mortimer, is a sort of Everygirl who just happens to have some exceedingly wealthy and slightly wacky friends. She dishes the dirt, but there’s nothing particularly dishy about her reportage: It lacks edge and insight, and Sylvie herself is so consistently uninteresting that one longs for the screwball antics of Bergdorf Blondes’ Moi. And, while Moi’s experiences were over-the-top but altogether plausible, the scenes that Sylvie describes—a divorce honeymoon, a divorce shower—seem contrived.

Indeed, the whole premise of the novel—“Married girls in New York these days put almost as much effort into losing husbands as they once did into finding them”—seems contrived. This, I think, is the novel’s biggest problem. Bergdorf Blondes may not be a brilliant work of art, but it’s a real novel. That is, I believe that the book was born when Sykes had an honest-to-goodness idea for a story and set about turning that idea into a complete narrative. The Debutante Divorcée, on the other hand, reads like it was written to fulfill an assignment, the assignment being to write another bestseller.

I stopped reading after 150 pages or thereabouts. I stopped reading when I realized that I was so bored I was skimming, and that I was skimming past whole pages at a time. I could have finished it in an hour or two (Miramax should be ashamed of charging $23.95 for 256 pages of huge type packed into a teeny, tiny trim size), but I just didn’t care enough about any of the characters or situations to bother.


May 30, 2006 | Permalink


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