Today I read Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns, the sequel to the bestselling The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger.
Ten years have passed since Andy Sachs told her boss from hell, Miranda Priestly, what she could do with the job a million girls would kill to have. Since then, Andy has gotten married to a gorgeous man who adores her, started up her own fabulous and rising wedding magazine The Plunge with her former-enemy-now-best-friend Emily, and now she has Clementine Rose, the most adorable baby ever. She has the life that a million women would kill to have.
But now a nightmare from her past is stirring–a nightmare that wears Prada. And Chanel, and Hermes, and Valentino. Miranda Priestly, the most powerful woman in the fashion world and the director of the Elias-Clarke publishing empire, wants to buy The Plunge, and one of her conditions is that the editorial team must stay for at least one year afterwards to shepherd the magazine through the transition. Emily may have forgotten the torture Miranda put them through, but Andy never can. Miranda hasn’t changed–she’s as ruthless and uncaring of others as ever. Andy can’t work for her again, she just can’t, no matter what the price. But when everyone in her life is telling her what a wonderful opportunity it is, is she strong enough to say no and keep her sanity?
This book is very different from The Devil Wears Prada. The first book was a deconstruction of the fantasy of the world of high fashion–glamour, style, beauty, poise. Being Miranda Priestly’s assistant at the world-class fashion magazine Runway is the “job a million girls would kill for”–but it’s the job that Andy hates. The backstabbing, the cruelty, the obsession with food and clothes that almost no one can afford or fit into–but it also feeds the fantasy that if you could just wear the clothes, you would have the glamorous, effortless, perfect life of the girls in the magazine. Andy gets sucked up into that world of believing in the delusion even when she thinks she knows better. She drinks the Kool-Aid, as long as it’s sugar-free. The first book enhances the fantasy by dropping all of the names–designer clothing, celebrities, the rich and the beautiful and the powerful.
Revenge Wears Prada, on the other hand, is a lot more down-to-earth in several ways. There isn’t anywhere near the once-obsessive interest in labels and brand names and couture, and the book doesn’t feed into the ruined fantasy of a career in couture. Celebrity is even more explicitly valued as a commodity, since that is what Andy and Emily use to sell their magazine–each issue features a celebrity wedding. They cash in on their time working for Miranda by dropping her name to book interviews with the famous. However, they aren’t terribly impressed with any of the celebrities based solely on their celebrity. Andy is much more interested in her marriage and her new daughter–in fact, one of the most detailed descriptions of her in designer clothes is in the opening scene, which is a nightmare that flashes back to her time as Miranda’s assistant. She remembers the misery and dreams of a white knight to come and save her, even though in the first book she rescued herself by quitting. Andy’s reaction to Miranda reads a lot like PTSD–it may have been a long time ago, but Andy is still badly traumatized and is unwilling to even entertain the idea of working for Miranda again–she’s even afraid to talk to her. The problem is that no one else in her life takes her fears seriously–they just don’t believe that Miranda could be that bad, not even Emily who suffered along with her. They’re all much more concerned with the extremely generous offer for the magazine, to the point of deceiving Andy and going behind her back in the name of grabbing the opportunity that they think she’s missing. It’s “for her own good” after all.
As the story of a woman going through a lot of changes in her life, it’s pretty good. As a sequel, it’s taken out almost everything that gave the original it’s addictive and nasty charm. The fashion that used to be a character in its own right is missing, and while Miranda is still poisonous she is no longer the all-powerful devil that so tormented Andy, except in Andy’s mind. Andy is rather judgemental–she accuses her new husband Max of deceiving her while not telling him all of her secrets, she eliminates Emily from her life after being betrayed and then deigns to communicate, and she divorces Max after his betrayal again without talking to him. Yes, he lied to her and deceived her, but he’s also not that bad a guy and he genuinely loves Andy and their daughter, and she keeps shutting him out and refusing to talk to him–Andy gives up on her marriage fairly quickly, and we the reader don’t see Max fight for their marriage all that hard either. Considering Andy judged Max very harshly for not mentioning seeing his ex before the wedding, and doesn’t tell him about the pregnancy until she’s known for a week, while Max clearly tries to be supportive and loving, I actually find myself more on Max’s side than Andy the protagonist’s. Traits that were forgiven in the first book due to Andy’s youth are a little more annoying in a woman of 30.
I think I would have liked this book better as an original story and not as a sequel–it just veers too far away from the atmosphere of the first book while relying on it for plot points. It’s not a bad book, but it’s a departure from Weisberger’s previous designer-packed tales, and when fashion is in the title you really need to have fashion in the book. The devil may have returned, but the Prada is still gone.
Andy watched in horror as five long fingers with red-lacquered nails reached up from the belowdecks stairwell and wrapped themselves, talonlike, over Valentino’s forearm.
As if in slow motion, the woman materialized inch by dreaded inch: the top of her bob, followed by her bangs, and then her face, twisted into an all-too-familiar expression of extreme displeasure. Her tailored white pants, silk tunic, and cobalt high-heeled pumps were all Prada, and her military-inspired jacket and classic quilted bag were Chanel. The lone jewelry she wore was a thick, enameled Hermès cuff in a perfectly coordinating shade of blue. Andy had read years earlier that the cuffs had replaced the scarves as her Hermès security blankets—apparently she had collected nearly five hundred in every imaginable color and size—and Andy sent up a silent thanks that she was no longer responsible for sourcing them. Watching in a sort of fascinated terror as Miranda refused to remove her shoes, Andy didn’t even notice when Max squeezed her hand.
“Miranda,” she said, half whispering, half choking.
“I’m so sorry,” Max said into her ear. “I had no idea she was coming.”
Miranda didn’t like parties, she didn’t like boats, and it stood to reason that she especially didn’t like parties on boats. There were three, perhaps five people on the planet who could convince Miranda to board a boat, and Valentino was one of them. Even though Andy knew Miranda would only deign to stay for ten or fifteen minutes, she was panicked at the idea of sharing such a small space with the woman of her night terrors. Had it really been almost ten years since she’d screamed F you on a Parisian street and then fled the country? Because it felt like only yesterday. She clutched her phone, desperate to call Emily, but she suddenly realized Max had dropped her hand and was reaching out to greet Valentino.
“Good to see you again, sir,” Max said in the formal way he always reserved for his parents’ friends.
“I hope you will excuse the intrusion,” Valentino said with a small bow. “Giancarlo was planning to attend on my behalf, but I was in New York tonight anyway to meet with this lovely lady, and I wanted to visit with my boat again.”
“We’re thrilled you could be here, sir.”
“Enough with the ‘sir,’ Maxwell. Your father was a dear friend. I hear you are doing good things with the business, yes?”
Max smiled tightly, unable to discern if Valentino’s question was merely polite or fraught. “I’m certainly trying. May I get you and . . . Ms. Priestly something to drink?”
“Miranda, darling, come here and say hello. This is Maxwell Harrison, son of the late Robert Harrison. Maxwell is currently overseeing Harrison Media Hol—”
“Yes, I’m aware,” she interrupted coolly, gazing at Max with a cold, disinterested expression.
Valentino looked as surprised as Andy felt. “Aha! I did not realize you two knew each other,” he said, clearly looking for a further explanation.
At the exact same moment that Max murmured, “We don’t,” Miranda said, “Well, we do.”
An awkward silence ensued before Valentino broke into a raucous laugh. “Ah, I sense there is a story there! Well, I look forward to hearing it one day! Ha ha!”
Andy bit her tongue and tasted the tang of blood. Her queasiness had returned, her mouth felt like chalk, and she couldn’t for the life of her figure out what to say to Miranda Priestly.
Thankfully Max, ever more socially graceful than she, placed his hand on Andy’s back and said, “And this is my wife, Andrea Harrison.”
Andy almost reflexively corrected him—professionally, it’s Sachs—until she realized he’d deliberately avoided using her maiden name. It didn’t matter, though. Miranda had already spotted someone more interesting across the room, and by the time Max’s introduction was out of his mouth, Miranda was twenty feet away. She had not thanked Max, nor even so much as glanced in Andy’s direction.
Valentino shot them an apologetic look and, clutching his pug, dashed off behind her.
Max turned to Andy. “I’m so, so sorry. I had absolutely no idea that—”
Andy placed her open palm on Max’s chest. “It’s okay. Really. Hey, that went better than I could have ever hoped. She didn’t even look at me. It’s not a problem.”
Max kissed her cheek and told her how beautiful she looked, how she didn’t have to be intimidated by anyone—least of all the legendarily rude Miranda Priestly—and asked her to wait right there while he went to find them both some water. Andy offered him a weak smile and turned to watch as the crew drew up the anchor and began to motor off the pier. She pressed her body into the boat’s metal railing and tried to steady her breathing with deep inhalations of the brisk October air. Her hands were shaking, so she wrapped her arms around herself and closed her eyes. The night would be over soon.