Though Prada was published a decade ago, I feel like now that I'm getting ready to take some big career steps and move out of my family home it's an appropriate time for me to have finally picked it up. That and, I learned recently that Weisberger is working on a sequel to be released this year, so I wanted this to be fresh in my mind.
Prada explores the hardships of getting started on your own, in the perspective of Andrea Sachs, who wants to write for The New Yorker. But instead, she takes up a job as an assistant to the Editor-in-Chief of fictional leading fashion mag Runway. The rest of the novel follows her experiences in dealing with her increasingly demanding boss, Miranda Priestly, and her deteriorating social life as a result. By the end of the novel, Andrea has some heavy decisions to make about the direction her life would take and at what cost, since the deal was she only had to survive Miranda for one year to get what she wanted. She signed a deal with the devil, so to speak.
Andrea (Andy) wanted to get ahead. When she was called in to do an interview at Runway, all of the red flags were waving high and proud. She should have turned and ran in the other direction in an instant. But the promise of pretty much anything she wanted in the writing world after just one year of servitude as Miranda Priestly's assistant was too much to pass up. What follows is some of the most (and truly) cringe-worthy narrative I've ever read (in a good way).
Prada is kind of "old news" for a review, especially if you've watched the movie adaptation. What got me interested in reading the book in the first place was the movie, so there you go. Though some folks might take this opportunity to talk about how the movie took several liberties and changed up the ending and other things, I personally think it's entirely in the spirit of the novel. It certainly references some of the more emphasized points of Andrea's introspection and various panicked pages/experiences that are recounted by Weisberger, while focusing more screen-time on what mattered: the "Dragon Lady" and her horrid treatment of her assistants, everyone's relationship to her (fear/respect), and as mentioned above, Andrea's increasingly deteriorating social life. Her estrangement from her parents, boyfriend, best friend... everyone.
I tend to find first-person narrative to be hit-or-miss, and when it comes to Prada I can't decide whether I enjoyed it or not. Though I liked Andy's "voice" in the novel and enjoyed reading what she was thinking, a lot of the sense of urgency she felt in some situations was completely lost because she'd over-think and over-explain every detail anyway. Her dripping sarcasm is hilarious, but a touch overdone, making Andrea seem like she employs it as a sort of defense mechanism than perhaps defining her as a sassy girl. It took me much longer than usual to read the novel because every instant was explained to me in excruciating detail.
I'm not saying all this is a strike against the book. All the details can be quite nice, and the frequent changes in pacing kept me on my toes. It just may not be everyone's cup of tea. Also, Prada is absolutely aimed towards female readers (if the use of the term "chick lit" in the back-of-the-book summary is any indication, along with the high heels on the cover), even though the material generally applies to anyone and everyone who has ever had a demanding boss. You get this sense of freedom by the end, the triumph of finally taking control of your life, and you just have to feel good for Andy. Like, give her a hug and serve her a hulking piece of cake.
I recommend this novel to those who want a fluffy, yet funny interlude in your serious business reading pile. It isn't for everyone, though. Be prepared to read plenty about various fashion designers, about office politics in the female perspective (particularly about girl politics and how they fit in the office politics, if that even makes sense), and about the hard lessons we learn as adults about evaluating our principles. The upcoming sequel, which is supposed to take place eight years after the events of Prada, is slated for release in April. Now's a good time to check it out and have it fresh in your mind! (Let's also hope, for the love of cake, that there isn't an image of a decapitated person on the book cover.)
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