Love, sex, money, heartbreak, travel and friendship. What more could you ask from a chick–lit novel? In the case of Lauren Weisberger’s “Chasing Harry Winston,” these elements are all present, but there is still much to be desired.
Admittedly, as the author of “The Devil Wears Prada,” Weisberger had a lot to live up to in order to follow such a hit. Unfortunately, “Chasing Harry Winston” doesn’t even come close to matching her witty and biting bestseller.
“Chasing Harry Winston” focuses on three best friends, Emmy, Leigh and Adriana, each with her own set of insecurities and issues to deal with. It begins with newly single Emmy pledging to have a year of meaningless international sex if Adriana, a Brazilian sexpot who has never held a relationship past the time it takes to get out of bed after a romp in the sheets, will commit to one man. Meanwhile, Leigh is stuck in a relationship that everyone, including her boyfriend, thinks is perfect, but she fears will never be as fulfilling as it appears.
All of the typical criteria for chick-lit are there: tightly bonded female friendships, romantic troubles, sex, extravagance and handsome men around every corner. What is lacking is an original storyline. The pact that Adriana and Emmy make to essentially reverse roles has the potential to provide a creative backbone for the novel, but fails to follow through.
Each of the three main characters comes with her own set of idiosyncrasies, some annoyingly stereotypical and some endearing. Emmy, my personal favorite, is heartbroken after her boyfriend of five years runs off with his personal trainer. Her mission to “broaden her horizons,” both by traveling the world and attempting to have no-strings-attached sex in each exotic locale is entertaining in an almost voyeuristic way, but also made me pity her.
She clearly just wants to meet someone with whom she can settle down and start a family, but her friends won’t stop urging her to step outside of her comfort zone with a “Tour de Whore.” Maybe it’s idealistic, but I couldn’t seem to get on board with the notion that a sweet, overall lovable woman who desires nothing more than a stable relationship could be cajoled into facing the random sex and abandonment issues of one-night stands.
Leigh, a hard-working book editor, becomes all-too-swiftly engaged to the handsome sportscaster boyfriend who everyone believes is perfect, but she can’t seem to make herself feel the giddiness expected of a newly affianced woman. She experiences frequent panic attacks, exuding a sense of anxiety throughout the novel, and Weisberger makes her unhappiness all too clear, yet it takes Leigh until the end of the novel to break things off.
Though she does eventually find her happy ending, her behavior toward her fiance and friends becomes grating, as she seems to feel caged in her picture-perfect life. She not only refuses to take matters into her own hands but also takes her angst out on everyone around her.
Adriana is a completely different story. A Brazilian bombshell with a talent for seducing men, she is under pressure from her parents to find a husband and settle down. Their parental disappointment, coupled with the fact that she lives in their apartment, dependent on their credit cards, creates an immature and self-centered personality. Her arrogance regarding her looks and affectations such as her usage of the word “querida” to address everyone from her hairdresser to Emmy’s pet parrot fail to provide a relatable or even particularly likable character.
The plot is made up of several storylines that should be interwoven to create a cohesive narrative, but instead feel fragmented and a little lost. Weisberger jumps in and out of each woman’s personal life, from time to time bringing them together in even more confusing stories, such as a spontaneous trip for three to Curacao, that seem to come from and lead to nowhere.
By the end of the novel, the story comes together, but in such a simultaneously predictable and unrealistic way that I still cannot fully get on board with the characters or their happily-ever-afters. There are both sweet and amusing moments, but overall, the fluff overshadows the unexpected, and “Chasing Harry Winston” just falls flat.