The Devil Wears Prada
This book is hilarious. I was hooked from the first page, and laughing out loud at the hirsute man swearing at Andy on the second page.
I’m not a fashionista in the slightest, the majority of my clothes come from charity shops, although I do know the bigger designer names. It didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book, in the least. I was drawn in by Andy, the first person narrator throughout the book. Her observations, while sometimes negative, never seemed to be driven by anything malicious, it was simply how she happened to see things.
The plot follows Andy, a recent college graduate as she takes on her first ‘proper’ job, and she is really dumped into the deep end. She gets the post of assistant at Runaway magazine to one of the most feared and respected fashion magazine editors in the world, Miranda Priestly, and rapidly becomes immersed in a world of never ending often trivial duties, such as the one that starts the novel, fetching Miranda’s cat from her apartment.
Andy begins as someone who doesn’t have much a idea of what high fashion means, claiming to have been content with a fleece and jeans during her college years, and it’s that disregard for the reason that the magazine exists which brings her often into direct conflict with Emily, the first assistant.
Emily, she’s a brilliant character, full of so many biting put downs, and clearly fiercely ambitious. She knows what she wants, and puts the work in, we learn that she even missed her own birthday party in order to accommodate one of Miranda’s ‘requests’ and flew back early from a relative’s funeral so that she didn’t miss any work. She knows that she will have to do those things until her year is up, and then she will be able to move into the job that she truly wants.
Andy knows this too, but her ambitions unlike Emily’s lie outside Runaway, as she wants to be a ‘serious’ journalist, her passion is to write for the New Yorker. In time, with the help of her co worker Jeffy, who manages the wardrobe, she begins to dress more like the rest of the staff, which helps her fit in better with them, but her relationships outside work become more and more fractured.
Her best friend since childhood, Lily, a free spirit who was raised by her grandmother, is a Russian Literature graduate student, and becomes even more free spirited in a bid to relieve the pressure that she’s under. There are numerous episodes throughout the novel, where we see that Lily’s not exactly in control of her drinking, and she makes some dubious choices in terms of the men that she takes home. One in particular, scares Andy a good deal, but Andy is forced to place her work commitments above her friend, as she has been told by Miranda to be at a formal benefit.
The choice that she makes on that occasion, is one of the reasons that she begins to distance herself from her boyfriend. She has been dating Alex, for a few years prior to the novel starting, but their career paths mean that they spend a good deal of time apart, Alex is a teacher and it is strongly implied that Alex doesn’t understand in the least why Andy is beginning to change.
The distance between Andy and Alex is not entirely due to the fact that she is beginning to enjoy aspects of the work, and is forming bonds with James, and Nigel, the famed make over expert in particular. Early in the novel, she meets Christian, a young and extremely handsome writer, who was published while still at university. The attraction is mutual, and he keeps popping up at regular intervals, his ease at socialising with the ‘fashion’ set, a direct contrast with the impossibility of Alex fitting in at the same parties.
It’s not until Emily falls sick, before the trip to Paris for the Fashion Week, that things genuinely fall apart for Andy in her personal life. She only has a month or so left to go in her contract, and decides that she must keep toeing the line with Miranda. It would be foolish to make it so far, and then lose her opportunities, to pick where she wants to work. However her decision to go to Paris, means that she is picking work over a long planned trip with Alex to his reunion.
The resulting fight, leads to a standoff, and Alex ends the relationship. Andy’s time in Paris coincides with Christian being there, and she also has her first heart to heart of sorts with Miranda. However frantic calls keep coming from her friends and family, asking her to call them back as soon as possible.
When Andy finally gets a break, to phone them, she learns that Lily is in a lot of trouble. She got into a accident, driving drunk the wrong way down a one way street, and is in a coma. Andy is the closest thing that Lily has to family, outside of her grandmother, and Andy’s parents suggest that she might want to come home. Andy agonises over it, and has several discussions with her father and Alex, before ultimately deciding that she will stay in Paris, thinking that she can’t do anything for Lily at that moment. She confesses all that has been happening to Miranda, and Miranda’s response leads Andy to deliver possibly the best way to quit a job I’ve ever heard ‘F… you, F… you Miranda,’ and then simply walks away.
You see Andy might eventually be swayed slightly by the promise of landing her dream position, and choose her personal ambitions numerous times over familial and friends obligations, but when her friend needs her the most, she remembers what her priorities used to be.
She flies home, repairs the fractures in her relationships with her parents, and her sister, finally meeting her nephew, although it’s not repairable between her and Alex in terms of their romantic relationship. A realistic and very common thing of college sweethearts, when they land their first jobs, as they go from spending the majority of their time in the same places, to not having much free time for each other.
Andy is relatable from the moment that we meet her, and her affection for those that work for Miranda in a non magazine related capacity is evident throughout. She connects with the driver that she’s assigned, when on a mission for Miranda, giving him a sandwich when she buys her own, which marks her out as being very different to the rest of the girls, ‘they are not very nice’. She even refers to Uri, Miranda’s personal driver as being a ‘kindly old Russian grandpa’, not minding that he uses her nickname whereas she hates it when Miranda’s husband does the same thing.
I love the comedic touches, and the descriptions of the people, particularly Nigel’s first introduction. I have to say I did laugh out loud, several times while reading his first meeting with Andy.
Some of the things that Miranda assigns Andy to do, made me very relieved that I have never had a boss like that. I’ve had demanding bosses, but it’s more commonly wanting things typed up or installed in extremely short order, not ordering me to get two copies of a Harry Potter book before it’s been officially released, or track down a restaurant without telling me the name or what type of cuisine, or even what town it’s in. Great comedic fodder, but horrible to have to attempt to do.
If you want to have a laugh, as well as read something well crafted, packed full of interesting and flawed characters then the Devil Wears Prada should be your first pick.