The Devil Wears Prada, by Lauren Weisberger ****

thedevilwearsThe Devil Wears Prada is a fun, light read. By now many readers will have either seen or heard of the movie, and I had too. I tend to create mental pictures of fictional characters, sometimes using actors, and other times inserting the faces of people I have known in real life. In this case, I could not imagine anyone other than Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly, the boss from hell.

Andrea Sachs has finished college and yearns to write for a big-name magazine, preferably The New Yorker. She stumbles across the opportunity to break into the publishing world as Priestly’s assistant at Runway, a fashion magazine. This is a job with a high rate of turnover, and one can see why from the moment the position commences. There is no such thing as off-the-clock time. Sachs is on call 24-7, often for such trifling things as a gift for Priestly’s snarky twin daughters, or the ubiquitous dry cleaning. If it rains, Sachs is blamed. If a flight is late, Priestly wonders why Sachs couldn’t anticipate this problem and deal with it. Sachs is constantly demeaned and belittled, and she puts up with it because of the immense amount of power Priestly represents in her chosen field.

Sachs watches her relationships flounder as she is constantly required to break personal engagements in order to leap whenever her phone buzzes. She keeps at it knowing that at the end of a year with Priestly, her career in print journalism will either be made or broken by her boss.

The book spins an over-the-top villain at the perfect place in time. The book was published in 2007, and this was a time when the First World had just begun to realize the downside that is inherent in the brave new world of satellite-based communications. People that used to enjoy going on vacation and walking away from their telephone now take it with them, and this is often either a plainly stated part of their job, or a better-safe-than-sorry aspect of damage control. I didn’t have to do this during my twenty years as a public school teacher; so far, teachers really can carve out a part of their time away from the classroom purely for personal privacy and enjoyment. However, my husband is in the tech field, and though work didn’t phone him while he was away, he constantly checked into his work e-mail via laptop computer, insisting that it was better to know if a crisis was unfolding so he could be prepared to meet it upon his return rather than being blindsided and unprepared.

The movie version of the story develops Priestly a bit more and keeps her character from being a cardboard cutout. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t do that. But then, this is not serious literature; this is a romp.

Though many modern professionals are married to their phones and other devices all the time, Weisberger has spun a tale that will make just about anyone gratefully reflect that their own job is better than that. So like horror stories, part of the joy in reading this fluffy beach read is in comparing one’s own life favorably to that of the protagonist.

If you have a generous book-buying budget and want a fun read to pack for your beach trip or an escapist weekend at home, this one is a great choice. If your budget is tighter, try your public library; that’s where I found my copy. Unless you have a schedule like Sachs’s, you likely won’t have difficulty finishing this one by its due date.

Great beach read; fluffy escapist novel.

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