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The Devil Wears Prada (2003) is a best selling novel by Lauren Weisberger about a young woman who, freshly graduated from college, is hired as a personal assistant to a powerful fashion magazine editor, a job that becomes hellish as she struggles to keep up with her boss's capricious and demeaning requests. It was greatly successful, spending six months on the New York Times bestseller list and becoming the basis for the 2006 film of the same name, starring Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Emily Blunt.

Plot summary

The novel begins with its main character, Andrea Sachs, stuck in midtown Manhattanmarker traffic, trying to remember how to use a manual transmission. She is driving a Porsche roadster that belongs to her boss, Runway magazine editor Miranda Priestly. Sachs must deliver the roadster from the repair shop to Miranda's apartment in time for Miranda's family to go to the Hamptonsmarker for the weekend. While she is attempting to do this, Miranda calls Sachs on her cell phone and excoriates Sachs for not doing her job properly. Miranda also tells Sachs to pick up her pet French bulldog (Persian kitten in British edition) from the veterinarian's office. Trying to comply, Andrea ruins some of the expensive designer clothing she is wearing. She wishes Miranda would die. But if that did happen, she reminds herself, she'd lose the pleasure of killing Miranda with her own hands.

Sachs had recently graduated Brownmarker with a degree in English when she left her home in Avonmarker, Connecticutmarker for New York Citymarker. There she moved in with her longtime friend Lily, now doing graduate studies in Russian at Columbia. Sachs, a longtime reader of The New Yorker, blankets the magazine publishing industry with her résumé, hoping to land enough experience somewhere to eventually get her a job at the prestigious weekly. She gets a surprise interview at the Elias-Clark group and is hired on as Miranda's junior assistant. While she knows little of Miranda, she is told repeatedly that "a million girls would die for your job".

People at the magazine are afraid of finding themselves alone in an elevator with Miranda, or making critical remarks about her even to their close friends. Andrea dubs this attitude the Runway Paranoid Turnaround, as whenever one of her co-workers makes the slightest negative comment about Miranda, they immediately follow it up with a "turnaround" positive comment, due to their fear of their boss finding out about their attitude and firing them.

All the same, Andrea is told that if she manages to stick it out working for Miranda for a year, she can have her select pick of jobs within the magazine industry, so she valiantly struggles onward. Even in the present, the perks are generous ‚ÄĒ between Runway's notorious "closet" of designer clothes ostensibly "on loan" for photo shoots but rarely returned and often "borrowed" by the staff and the general obsequiousness she encounters as Miranda Priestly's personal assistant, she is able to acquire enough free designer clothing to fit in better with the rest of the fashionable Runway staff. Eventually, she develops an appreciation for it and stops incurring Miranda's displeasure. She gets a Bang and Olufsen phone for free when Miranda does not want it, and learns that Elias-Clark's policies regarding expense accounts are rather lax, to the benefit of herself and her friends.

She also goes to parties with celebrities. At one of them she meets Christian Collinsworth, a Yalemarker graduate who has been identified as the hot (in more ways than one), up-and-coming writer of their generation. They become attracted to each other, complicating her relationship with Alex.

Sachs's job begins to affect her health; she starts to lose weight because she can't bring herself to eat. After years of being tall and fairly thin, Sachs finds herself the fat, lumpy dwarf of "Runway"'s office. Eventually, Sachs begins to rationalize her not eating by thinking thoughts like "Missing one meal won't hurt, and anyway, $2000 pants don't look so hot on a fat girl." She realizes that she has begun to adopt the Runway attitude for her own.

While working for Miranda, she receives a letter from a teenager, telling Miranda that she loves her magazine and spends all her money on trying to look like the models, but still hates herself because "my butt is huge" and "I'm too fat". The teenager begs Miranda to send her a dress to wear to her prom, but ends by telling her that, even if she throws the letter in the trash can, she'll still love her. Andrea begins to doubt the true value of her job, as it is primarily encouraging the woman who makes teenagers all over America hate themselves as much as this one. However, she keeps going, thinking that it will all be worthwhile when she gets a job at The New Yorker.

The 14-hour days she puts in almost routinely leave her little free time to spend with Alex and Lily. Lily increasingly turns to alcohol and picking up dubious men to relieve the pressures of graduate school. Sachs's relationship with her family also suffers. Her parents complain that she doesn't visit her older sister, who is expecting her first child. Sachs stays absorbed in her own world as Lily's problems spiral out of control. Matters finally come to a head when Emily gets mononucleosis and Andrea must travel to Paris with Miranda. Andrea agrees, although this will mean canceling her trip for Alex's homecoming weekend.

In Paris, she has a surprise encounter with Christian. Later that night, Miranda finally lets down her guard a little bit and asks Andrea what she's learned, and where she'd like to work afterwards. She promises to place phone calls to people she knows at The New Yorker on Andrea's behalf once her year is up, and tells her she can actually do some small written pieces for Runway.

But back at the hotel, Andrea gets urgent calls from Alex and her parents asking her to call them. She does so and learns that Lily is comatose in the hospital after driving drunk and wrecking a car.

Though Andrea is receiving pressure from her family and Alex to return home, she tells Miranda she will honor the commitment. Miranda is greatly pleased, and tells her that her future in magazine publishing is looking bright. At the Paris fashion show for Christian Dior, however, a livid Miranda phones her with yet another impossible demand. After she hangs up, Andrea stares at her phone, trying to think how to accommodate Miranda. Then, Andrea finally realizes that her family and friends are more important than her job, and realizes that she is becoming more and more like Miranda. On the spot, Andrea flips out her cell phone and tells her family that she's coming home. Miranda disapproves, but Andrea tells Miranda publicly "Fuck you, Miranda. Fuck you". She is fired on the spot, but returns home to reconnect with her friends and family. Her romantic relationship with Alex is beyond repair, but they remain friends. Lily recovers and fares well in court for her DUI charge, receiving only community service.

In the last chapter the reader learns that the fallout from her standup to Miranda made her a minor celebrity when the incident made 'Page Six'. Afraid she had been blacklisted for good from publishing, she stays in Connecticut for a while and works on short fiction. Seventeen buys one of her stories, and Andrea begins a friendly and professional relationship with Loretta, one of the editors of the teen magazine, who also happened to work for Runway prior to her tenure there. She returns to New York and gives herself a comfortable financial cushion by selling all the designer clothing she took to Paris with her to consignment shops. She saves a pair of Dolce and Gabbana denim jeans for herself, gave a quilted Chanel purse to her mother, and a Diane von F√ľrstenberg wrap dress to the teenager who wrote to Miranda.

At the novel's end, she is returning to the building to discuss a position at company's magazines. She sees a girl whom she realizes is in fact, Miranda's new junior assistant, who is loaded with Miranda's coffee, shopping bags, newspapers, and her beaded clutch, and she remembers that that used to be her. The doorman tips Andrea a wink.

Characters

  • Andrea Sachs, a recent Brown Universitymarker graduate, works as a junior personal assistant to a powerful and tyrannical fashion magazine editor. She is called Andy by her friends and family.
  • Miranda Priestly, the Britishmarker-born (as Miriam Princhek) editor-in-chief of Runway, a very chic and influential fashion magazine published by the Elias-Clark company. She is known for wearing a white Herm√®smarker scarf somewhere on her person every day and treating her subordinates in a manner that borders on emotional and psychological abuse.
  • Emily Charlton, her coworker, Miranda's former junior assistant now her senior assistant, responsible for more business-related matters such as reconciling expense statements. She and Andrea should be friends, and sometimes are, but have a mixed relationship, as their differing responsibilities to their tyrannical superior create envy between them: Andrea gets to leave the office a lot, whereas Emily is allowed to dress more flexibly and relax more at the office.
  • Alex Fineman, Andrea's boyfriend, who teaches at an elementary school in the South Bronxmarker through Teach for America.
  • Lily Goodwin, a free-spirited graduate student in Russian literature at Columbia with curly black hair, who rooms with Andrea, her longtime friend whom she went through high school and college with.
  • Nigel, a very tall British gay man who in addition to serving as Runway 's creative director frequently appears on television as a fashion consultant and is thus one of the few stars of the magazine Andrea knows prior to working there. He always speaks loudly, with his words printed in ALL CAPS. He has an outrageous sense of style himself, and is also the only person who Miranda allows to critique (sometimes brutally) her own personal wardrobe choices.
  • James, another gay man at Runway who works at the beauty department who befriends Andrea. He sometimes jokes about "calling in fat" on days when he feels unattractive.
  • Jeffy, who oversees Runway 's famous "Closet," stocked with all sorts of clothing putatively on loan from the designers for use in shoots, but rarely returned and often "borrowed" by the magazine's staff. He is largely credited for transforming Andrea's wardrobe so she can fit in with the fashionable hallways of the Runway offices.
  • Hunter Tomlinson, a prominent New York tax attorney who is Miranda's current husband after she left the father of her two daughters, a onetime British rock star. As nice to Andrea and Emily as his wife is cruel, he is referred to by them and other close associates of Miranda's as "B-DAD," behind his back, for Blind Deaf and Dumb, the only way they could imagine anyone being able to live with her.
  • Eduardo, a security guard at the Elias-Clark building, who often playfully makes Andrea or anyone else unfortunate enough to work as one of Miranda's personal assistants sing or otherwise put on some sort of act before he lets them enter the building.
  • Christian Collinsworth, a hot young writer whom Andrea meets at a party, where they develop a mutual attraction.
  • Caroline and Cassidy, the twin daughters Miranda dotes on.
  • Cara, the girls' nanny, who saves Andrea's skin more than once but is eventually fired by Miranda after she gives the twins a timeout in their bedroom for a bad attitude.
  • Jill, Andrea's older sister, who is married and lives in Houstonmarker, where she has begun to affect a Southern accent, much to Andrea's displeasure.
  • The Clackers, the magazine's many female editorial staffers, mainly Allison (former senior assistant now beauty editor), Lucia (fashion department), Jocelyn (editorial), and Stef (accessories). They are so-called (albeit dismissively) by Andrea for the sound made by the stiletto heels they wear as they walk up and down the marble floors of the Elias-Clark building.
  • Benjamin, often referred to as Benji. He was Lily's ex-boyfriend, but it seems that he and Lily has stayed in touch even though they had broken up. He was rarely mentioned in the book but he was involved in the car accident with Lily.


Conception

In publicity materials Weisberger states that Priestly's demands are partially fictional and partially a composite of actual experiences she and her friends had in their first jobs. Some reviewers state that Anna Wintour, head of Vogue, was the inspiration for Priestly.

Commercial and critical reception

Critics, resigned to the knowledge that their reviews would be irrelevant to the book's runaway success, and also mindful of its subject matter, were largely unimpressed. Kate Betts, a former editor of Harper's Bazaar who also worked for Wintour at one point, spared no barb in the Times Book Review, stressing the author's ingratitude at the unique opportunity of working at Vogue: "[I]f Andrea doesn't ever realize why she should care about Miranda Priestly, why should we care about Andrea, or prize the text for anything more than the cheap frisson of the context?" Janet Maslin, in the daily paper, joined in: "a mean-spirited Gotcha! of a book, one that offers little indication that the author could interestingly sustain a gossip-free narrative ..."

Maslin avoided naming both the magazine where Weisberger actually worked and the woman she allegedly modeled her main character on. The Times continued this practice when the film was released[144623]). Betts, a former Condé Nast editor, was hardly an impartial reviewer (In Weisberger's second novel, Everyone Worth Knowing, two characters are speculating on the identity of a popular anonymous online gossip columnist. One candidate is "that former fashion editor who goes around writing mean book reviews").

Critics who favored the book admitted it had problems, as any first novel might, but praised it as a "fun, frivolous read".

No Condé Nast Publications reviewed or otherwise mentioned The Devil Wears Prada.

Criticisms

The Devil Wears Prada was criticized primarily for the usual limitations of a first novel and for being too gossipy (as romans à clef often are). The story was seen as trite and clichéd (the same general plot is shared by the 1994 film Swimming with Sharks), and its autobiographical elements too thinly veiled. Many reviewers recalled The Nanny Diaries, similar in several ways to The Devil Wears Prada, and found Weisberger's book wanting.

The critics also claimed that Miranda was too one-dimensional, too much the absurdly overbearing boss. Yet Andrea admits that for all that, she still does the difficult work of keeping a premiere fashion magazine on top almost all by herself. As a result, she herself (along with Emily) enjoys considerable power in the fashion world as Miranda's gatekeeper.

Accordingly, the novel also makes Miranda seem sympathetic at a few points, most notably at an engagement party thrown for her brother-in-law, who has moved down to South Carolinamarker and made a fortune in real estate. Andrea, surrounded by women from his social circle who "looked like a dressier version of the cast from Deliverance", even admits "I never grew tired of watching Miranda. She was the true lady and the envy of every woman in the museum that night".

Themes

Snobbery

While The Devil Wears Prada is on a narrative level about Andrea's struggle not to "sell out" her principles, whether sartorial, literary, or moral, its main preoccupation is snobbery. Andrea looks askance at the fashionistas she is surrounded by at Runway and hates their cliquishness (for example, the magazine's advertising department never invites anyone from the editorial side to their parties for advertisers not because they think the latter beneath them but because they know no one from editorial would be caught dead at an advertising party). But her distaste for them is equally snobbish, as many of the other characters, even (ultimately) Miranda, repeatedly point out to her.

Besides her coworkers, Andrea looks condescendingly upon Southerners as well, as her attitude toward her sister and Miranda's brother-in-law's friends demonstrate.

Some readers and reviewers complained that Andrea's own snobbery makes her hard to sympathize with. While this is perhaps so, it makes Andrea's apparent triumph at the end of the novel something of a hollow victory, much like the final scene of the 1988 film Working Girl, layered with dramatic irony, in that she has settled, at least temporarily, for working for publications much more middlebrow than her original ambition of making it to The New Yorker.

Jewish identity

An interesting sub-theme is the tenuousness of Jewish American social identity amid widespread cultural assimilation in the early 21st century.

Andrea speaks only Hebrew in addition to English. She identifies herself and her family as Jewish but only once. Otherwise, the Sachses are stereotypically WASP, living in Avonmarker, Connecticutmarker, worshipping The New Yorker, and playing Scrabble for relaxation. Significantly, the only sign of secular Jewish culture present in their household is the dinner of bagels, lox and latkes Andrea's mother orders the night before Thanksgiving, the American holiday closely linked with the Mayflower Pilgrims, English Protestants from whom direct descent was long a guarantee of a social status that American Jews could never attain. We never see the Sachses celebrating any of the traditional Jewish holidays. It hardly comes as a surprise that Jill has gone native after her marriage and move to Texasmarker.

Miranda has gone even further in rejecting her Jewish origins, Andrea learns via a Google search, by changing her name to distance herself from an Orthodox background in the East Endmarker, where her father spent his days studying religious texts and was supported by the community. At one point, Andrea evokes this background when she considers leaving Miranda's office by walking backwards, likening it to the way observant Jews are supposed to leave the Wailing Wallmarker.

It is thus probably more than a coincidence that Miranda's chosen last name is Priestly and that the character who most epitomizes Andrea's temptations and aspirations is named Christian; or that conversely, her (Jewish) best friends' last names are "fine man" and "good one".

Foreign editions

In addition to the United States, the book is sold in Albaniamarker, Australia, Belgiummarker, Brazilmarker, Bulgariamarker, Canadamarker, Chinamarker, Croatiamarker, Denmarkmarker, Finlandmarker, Francemarker, Germanymarker, Greecemarker, Hungarymarker, Indonesiamarker, Israelmarker, Italymarker, Japanmarker, Koreamarker, Latviamarker, Lithuaniamarker, Malaysiamarker, Méxicomarker, the Netherlandsmarker, Polandmarker, Portugalmarker, Romaniamarker, Russiamarker, Serbiamarker, Singaporemarker, South Africa, Spainmarker, Swedenmarker, Taiwanmarker, Thailandmarker, Turkeymarker, the United Kingdommarker and Vietnammarker.

Film adaptation



The film version was released on June 30, 2006 by 20th Century Fox. It was produced by Wendy Finerman (Forrest Gump), freely adapted for the screen by Aline Brosh McKenna and directed by David Frankel. Anne Hathaway played Andrea, Meryl Streep earned critical praise and a Golden Globe as Miranda, and Emily Blunt played Emily.

Production took place during fall 2005, on location in New York and Paris. Weisberger herself made a very brief non-speaking cameo appearance as the twins' nanny.

It was very successful, taking in over $300 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing film for both lead actresses. In September Weisberger and Frankel jointly accepted the first-ever Quill Variety Blockbuster Book to Film Award.

Television series

On October 12, 2006, Fox Television Network announced that they have acquired the rights to a sitcom version of the series based on the book, which would have started airing in 2007. However the project was not picked up by FOX after they announced their 2007-2008 television season schedule in May 2007 and there is no word on whether this adaptation will go forward.

References

  1. " Author Q&A The Devil Wears Prada." Random House. Retrieved on July 4, 2009.
  2. Smith, Kyle; June 30, 2006; Guy at the movies The New York Post; retrieved May 26, 2009
  3. Betts, Kate; April 13, 2003; " 'The Devil Wears Prada':Anna Dearest"; The New York Times Book Review; retrieved February 7, 2007.
  4. http://www.nydailynews.com/business/story/75405p-69693c.html


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