1 April 2010

Review: THE OVERNIGHT SOCIALITE by Bridie Clark ***

In this beguiling retelling of the classic Pygmalion, we meet Lucy Ellis, a Manhattan transplant who dreams of making it as a fashion designer but instead toils away on a Garment District assembly line.
Road-blocked each time she tries to score a break, Lucy is beginning to think the unthinkable: maybe it's time to pack it in and
move home to Minnesota. Then, during a torrential downpour, at her most bedraggled and disheartened, Lucy meets Wyatt Hayes IV.
Wyatt--man-about-town and bored Ph.D. anthropologist--has just been publicly dissed by New York's reigning socialite, Cornelia Rockman, whom he'd been dating. When he meets Lucy, he boasts to his best friend Trip that he can transform any woman, even a trailer-born nobody like Lucy into this year's "It" girl.
She'll make the rest of the pack look like dim little tea lights. If Wyatt can fool the East Coast aristocracy into thinking Lucy's the real deal, he can reveal the farce behind of Cornelia's social superiority complex and score a career-boosting book deal.
Headstrong Lucy challenges her teacher at every turn, but armed with a made-up pedigree and a wardrobe costlier than most studio apartments, she's soon navigating a world in which the most photographed socialite takes all. Can Lucy survive in a wilderness where no girl wears the same gown twice, the Astors are considered Johnny-come-latelies, and weddings are mo
re lavish than the coronation of Louis XIV? Will she forge the connections needed to make a name for herself in fashion? And can she surmount the schemes and suspicions of her newfound rival, Cornelia?
Three months of rigorous prep and test runs culminate in Lucy's showdown at the Fashion Forum Gala, where she and Wyatt confront the ne plus ultra of society and their unexpected feelings for each other. But the gaps between them as well as Wyatt's secret agenda may make this improbable couple an impossibility.
Set against the gold-plated world of Manhattan's social elite, The Overnight Socialite puts a witty twenty-first-century spin on a timeless story of transformation and unlikely love.
I absolutely loved the author's debut novel BECAUSE SHE CAN (The Devil Wears Prada set in the world of publishing) and I was thrilled to learn that she had a new book coming out. I pre-ordered it immediately and I finally got to read it during my short trip last weekend. The novel is said to be a modern retelling of PYGMALION (which I also really, really enjoyed) and my expectations for it were quite high, but sadly I was slightly disappointed ...

Somehow it all just fell flat for me, although the beginning was quite promising. I really felt sorry for Lucy as her whole world came crashing down in one single evening and I thought the scene when she first met Wyatt was quite funny and made everything sound so promising. I love a good makeover story, but this one was hardly exciting - I felt like everything was just briefly mentioned and Lucy's life changed too quickly whereas I would've preferred a more detailed description of the makeover. On the other hand, I thought there were too many characters and side stories that I could do without. On the whole, the plot was just too simple and I found the twists to be slightly predictable and the ending was just cheesy.

Sadly I couldn't connect with the characters either. Lucy should be someone I should love as a characters, but she just didn't jump off the page for me and I felt like I didn't get to know her enough. Maybe it was because I couldn't get into her mind due to the third person narration? Either way, I was surprised to be left quite indifferent to her, I didn't expect that to happen. The other characters seemed rather one dimensional to me too, especially Cornelia and Wyatt as far as main characters go. I felt that generally the characters were assigned a role and they played along, there were no surprises, which is quite a contrast to the original play of Pygmalion where the characters (namely Eliza and Professor Higgins) were a delight!

What I enjoyed about the novel though was the writing itself, which I thought was lovely and made the book easy to read. I have to say I was expecting another comedy by Ms Clark, but this book was more of a satire of the excess and the glamorous lives of the Manhattan elite, which I enjoyed reading about, even though I find it hard to believe that some people actually live like that, heh?!

All in all, the book was a nice, average read - it made me chuckle a few times, but on the other hand it also made me roll my eyes a couple of times. It wasn't a bad book, far from it, just not as great as I had hoped or expected it to be based on the author's debut BECAUSE SHE CAN, which I strongly recommend! This book is also a spin off of PYGMALION, but it has nothing on the original - it's okay, but it lacks the spark, the humour, the characterization of Shaw's work, which you definitely should read if you haven't already, it's brilliant and oh so funny! You can read it online for free or even watch the lovely film based on the play (it's just one of the many variations).

The final judgement - the book is worth reading, but I'd wait for the paperback. Until then, entertain yourself with BECAUSE SHE CAN or PYGMALION. :)

overall rating:
plot: 3/5 | writing: 4/5 | characters: 2/5 | cover: 4/5


Luisa at Chicklish said...

Ooh, this is an interesting review! I love this kind of story and I'm really intrigued by what you said. Thank you very much for this!

Stacy said...

I read this book awhile back and I thought the same thing. Entertaining but forgettable, I see it as a good beach read.

ladystorm said...

I have never heard of PYGMALION..but it almost sounded like a different version of My Fair Lady (maybe that is Pygmalion too..lol) It sounds like it could be a fun read and I am sorry it didn't meet your expectation. I have not read this author but I might have to try her out some day.

Bookalicious Ramblings said...

Ladystorm, you're right, My Fair Lady is based on Pygmalion (which is based on a Greek myth, I think) so that's why they sounds so similar! :)

Cleverly Inked said...

I have herd nothing but AWESOME things from this!

Cleverly Inked said...

err heard**

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Such a bummer when you can't connect with the characters. Great review!

Emidy said...

Excellent review! Too bad this book didn't live up to Because She Can. At least it was a cute and light read, though!

from Une Parole

Nina said...

Too bad that it was kind of predictable and that you didn't bond with the characters. I may try this one when it comes out paperback. But thank you for your recommendation of the book 'Because she can'. Have you written a review for that book? I'm going to search for it! :)
Thanks for your honest opinion about this book.

Anonymous said...

I like your rating system!!! It's a cool way of analyzing the book! :)

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