Exploring the high price of celebrity
There is perhaps no assistant as famous as Lauren Weisberger—the young writer who channeled her hellish experience working for Vogue’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour in the 2003 blockbuster The Devil Wears Prada. The dishy tell-all novel was a sensation, and the fires only burned higher when Meryl Streep stepped into the role ofRunway magazine head honcho Miranda Priestly, torturing Anne Hathaway’s earnest, ever-struggling assistant, Andrea, in the 2006 film version.
In 2005, Weisberger proved she was no one-hit-wonder with her second novel,Everyone Worth Knowing, in which 27-year-old New York banker Bette Robinson quits her job to work at a posh public relations agency—and finds herself totally out of place in the crazy world of celebrity PR.
Next, in 2008, came Chasing Harry Winston, the story of three Manhattan-based friends: Emmy, newly single and not by choice;Leigh, a young publishing hotshot on the brink of achieving everything she ever worked for; and Adriana, a supermodel’s daughter approaching 30 who thinks it might finally be time to settle down. Together, these friends make a pact tochange their lives over the course of a year—and the results are anything but what they expected.
You might say that Weisberger has grown up with her characters— evolving from a struggling assistant fresh out of college to a married woman with a booming career (in April 2008, she married fellow writer Mike Cohen). With her fourth novel, Last Night at Chateau Marmont, Weisberger exploresthe darker side of fame—and what happens to a marriage when one spouse’s notoriety suddenly eclipses the other’s.
Brooke, a smart and driven New York nutritionist, can’t believe her good luck when she meets Julian Alter, a soulful singer/songwriter. They fall quickly and madly in love, and after five years of marriage, they are happier than ever. Brooke has a job she loves (well, two jobs, actually, since she’s the breadwinner in the family), wonderful parents and a great group of friends. And then something incredible happens—Julian hits it big. One minute they are struggling to afford dinners out and the next they are being whisked to L.A. so Julian can perform on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
Brooke is thrilled for her husband, since she’s always been his biggest fan, but as their lives begin to change, she feels left out of his glamorous, fast-paced new world. And it doesn’t help that Julian quickly catches the eyes of a number of starlets—and the tabloids— and is on the road more than he is at home with Brooke. Unsurprisingly, the Alters find themselves in a marital crisis, and Brooke is forced to decide what it is she really wants.
Like Weisberger’s previous novels, Last Night at Chateau Marmont is not high art. But it is an interesting look at the nature of celebrity, and how fame not only changes the person in the spotlight, but everyone in their lives. As Weisberger herself said, “I wanted to take the classic ‘overnight success’ story, but tell it from the perspective of the person left behind. If your husband literally becomes a rock star overnight, how does that affect your relationships, your career and most of all, your marriage? Could you deal with it? Would you want to? It’s a look at the fame machine, but from a very different angle.”
For fans of Weisberger, Last Night at Chateau Marmont is the perfect end-of-summer romp.