Monday, November 4, 2013

Book Review: One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell

One Fifth Avenue
by Candace Bushnell

I don't think I'm going out on a limb when I say Candace Bushnell is still the world's most celebrated sex columnist. She fashioned her insightful New York Observer columns into the book Sex and the City, which became reincarnated as a deservingly popular and entertaining TV show. Our ideas about Bushnell may be shaped by the engaging TV series, but as a writer she's more sober and more serious than we might expect from the HBO show alone. Her prose is straightforward but not as finely crafted as her plots.

One Fifth Avenue (2008) is a novel set in a prime piece of New York City real estate, albeit the real address has been fictionalized. Like Lipstick Jungle, the book is full of strong female personalities. The men are once again less interesting. Nowhere is there much psychological depth.

Still, it's a fairly complex tale interweaving the various loves, intrigues, careers, and egos of those who live in or wish they could live in this landmark building. To her credit, Bushnell has let her characters age along with her and quite a few of them here are in their mid-forties. Surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly given Bushnell's changing perspective, the twenty-somethings don't come off very well in the novel at all. No one in fact is particularly nice, and it's not easy to relate to most of the characters. The result is that we really don't care all that much. Bushnell has at least five of her characters writing for one medium or another, but even she doesn't seem to empathize with any of those practicing her craft.

In the end, we are asked to believe that fate has a way of giving nasty folks their comeuppance. We are told that couples who have really good sex should find a way to spend their lives together. And we learn once again that money can't buy happiness, but it can buy real estate.

Note:  I have other book reviews posted here.

Election Day is tomorrow. The relevant blog posts are here.


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