"The Devil Wears Prada" by Lauren Weisberger (2003)
Lauren Weisberger is an American novelist. She grew up in Pennsylvania, went on to work at Vogue, and has since written several novels. This book, The Devil Wears Prada, is largely autobiographical, and was inspired by her months (years?) working at Vogue.
In The Devil Wears Prada, a recent college graduate applies for a job at premier fashion magazine Runway in hopes of kickstarting a writing career. Soon after she finds herself working for Miranda Priestley, Runway's Editor-in-Chief and darling of the fashion world. As the title of this book would lead you to expect, Miranda Priestley then proceeds to make the protagonist's life a living hell for the next several months.
I'd seen the movie years before, so nothing in the book was a big surprise. The chief difference being that I enjoyed the movie a lot more than the book. Other differences between the movie and the book? They are:
1. The lead character's labored "Jewishness." Salt bagels, for whatever reason, are mentioned often. I think the author did this to emphasize the protagonist's distance from the larger, "whiter" culture of the fashion world, but the use of the word "Jappy" in the beginning of the book, and mentions of the fact that she can't tell her Indian roommates apart achieve the opposite effect.
2. The proliferation of gay men. In the book gay men dominate the offices of Runway magazine, and none of them veer far from stereotypes. Nigel, the character that Stanley Tucci played so brilliantly in the movie, appears for only a moment in the novel, and the role of "gay friend" is fairly evenly divided between Nigel and another character, James.
3. The character of Miranda. In the book Miranda is more of generalized British crazy woman. Fortunately the writers of the screenplay realized that fleshing out Miranda a bit more was essential to the story they were trying to tell, and thus the movie's script gave Meryl Streep a lot more to work with. Making Miranda more human/easier to relate to went a long way toward explaining the protagonist's grudging admiration for her.
4. Miranda's absence from the first 1/4 of the book. This, to me, was the strangest thing about the novel. Miranda doesn't really show up until you're a fourth of the way in, and by that time the "threat" that she represents has been dulled by her distance from the protagonist. I get that the author wanted to set up the protagonist's background before entering into her conflict with Miranda, but that setting up period could have been a lot shorter.
5. The role of fashion. As the protagonist accompanies Miranda to Paris the role of fashion in this story does become more obvious in the book, but up until the second half it's largely absent from the narrative. One improvement the movie made was introducing that argument between the protagonist and Miranda over her fashion choices early on. This emphasized the role of fashion in the overall story, and also made a nice point about the role of fashion in the larger culture.
6. The boyfriend. In the book Alex is a teacher working in the inner-city. I think the author chose this profession for him because it highlighted the different career trajectories pursued by the protagonist and her boyfriend, and also helped explain why their relationship stalled later on. In the movie, however, he was an aspiring chef. From my point of view making him a chef is more practical, because it makes him more a part of the urban culture they both share. It also makes him more likely to be with the protagonist in the first place.
7. The ending. In the movie the ending's a lot simpler. Anne Hathaway's character comes to a realization about Meryl Streep's character, and that's about it. Yeah, she bangs the cute writer guy - another departure from the book - but overall the ending of the movie is more to the point. In the book several plot threads come together around a shared tragedy, and by the end the protagonist is free to pursue her true ambition and become a writer. I think both endings work, even if in the book's case one of the characters at the center of that tragedy could have been better developed.
All in all I'd have to say that both the book and the movie are good, but the movie is a clear improvement over the novel. If, like me, you've seen and enjoyed the movie, you'll find a lot to like about the book. It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and it's an obvious first effort by someone new to writing books, but it's a fairly well put together story.
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