Review: The Unfortunates: A Novel

TheUnfortunates

THE UNFORTUNATES: A NOVEL BY SOPHIE McMANUS

RATING: 2 STARS

The Unfortunates is a story of an old-money family in opulent decline. The POV is told from three characters. It begins with Cece, the family matriarch, living in a “research institute” reviewing the past of her charmed life her and impending mortality. It switches to man-child son, George, who takes advantage of his Mother’s absence to fulfill his artistic theater dreams. Finally, we hear from Iris, George’s practical, down to earth wife, who the mother despises.

Overall, the characters were bland and two-dimensional. Iris was the only likeable character with depth,  who feels uncomfortable with her husband’s wealth, yet protects George from his poor financial judgment.  I think the author was aiming for The Unfortunates to be a tragedy, but it doesn’t work because I couldn’t relate to the characters. The Unfortunates lacked in substance along with shallow, bland characters. I wouldn’t recommend it.

An advanced reader’s copy was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Review: China Rich Girlfriend

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CHINA RICH GIRLFRIEND BY KEVIN KWAN

RATING: 3 STARS

China Rich Girlfriend is the sequel to Kevin Kwan’s first book, Crazy Rich Asians.
In his over the top chic-lit sequel, China Rich Girlfriend picks up where the first book left off. Set in Singapore,  the reader enters the outrageous lifestyles of billionaire’s. In between gossip sessions, eating at members-only private restaurants and non-stop shopping trips, the drama between American born Rachel Chun and her fiancé, Nick Young, Singapore’s most eligible bachelor continues. While Nick’s family grumbles about their disapproval of Nick’s choice of his bride, Rachel’s is anguished over her unsuccessful attempts to locate her birth father. There’s enough catty behavior and mishaps to keep the reader happy while riding on the melodramatic ride. Several subplots include Rachel befriending Colette Bing, a wealthy fashion icon, and Kitty Pong, a former TV actress who is trying to buy her way into Singapore society.

China Rich Girlfriend is a soap opera on steroids. The two-dimensional characters jump from one scenario to the next, adding to the confusion of following the details of  the characters, relationships and Chinese family lineage. Mandarin sayings and slang are sprinkled throughout, with a helpful glossary of terms at the end of each chapter.  This light read became tedious to read after non-stop mentions of fashion designers and their products, which didn’t move the story forward.

I recommend this chick-lit book for a light beach/vacation read, when you don’t your full concentration isn’t necessary.

An advance reader’s copy was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Review: My Paris Dream

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My Paris Dream: An Education in Style, Slang, and Seduction in the Great City on the Seine by Kate Betts

Published by Penguin Random House Company

RATING: 4 STARS

Kate Betts is an award-winning magazine editor and author who has held top positions at  Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. In 2003 she was named editor at large at Time magazine where she created the first globally published style supplement, Time Style & Design.

In her memoir and coming of age story, My Paris Dream, Betts recounts her experiences of living in Paris during the late eighties. After being brought up in Manhattan, and graduating from Princeton, she is anxious to escape the traditional expectations of her parents. While her friends are entering law school or working on Wall Street, Betts is determined to follow her dream and explore Paris, as she did during her boarding school summers. Betts is part of the 1% who is lucky enough to secure an internship at a Paris magazine through her godmother’s well-connected husband. She is content, but bored with her minimum wage earning job, yearning to fit into French culture while trying to find work as a fashion journalist.

During her stay with a wealthy Parisian family, she meets her boyfriend, Herve, who is from Brittany, takes her to see a costumed band of wild boar hunters tear through the forests of Brittany. After her boar-hunting article is published, John Fairchild, the publisher of Women’s Wear Daily, (who is also attended Princeton) notices it, et voilà – he hires Betts for the Paris bureau. She begins covering American “It” girls and becomes rewarded for her efforts and is initiated into the elite ranks of Mr. Fairchild ‘s influential trusted few and sat next to him in the front rows of fashion shows of top designers, such as Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent and Claude Montana.

Betts is enamored with Paris, it’s hard for her to discern if she loves the beauty of France and the French lifestyle, or is this  clouding her thinking towards her true feelings for Herves. She admires the French focus on family and the traditional August vacation over career, yet she realizes she’ll always be an outsider. Unfortunately, Herves friends are only too happy to point out her faux pas when she doesn’t follow certain “rules” of French culture. She doubts her acceptance into French culture. Homesick for New York, she decides to return home.

I can relate to her cultural experiences because I nearly moved to France in my early twenties, after being engaged to a Frenchman. I had a similar experiences of feeling like an outsider. The French will accept you as friends forever, but not as family. The French tend to make the majority of their friends when they’re young and continue the friendship into adulthood. They prefer staying with their established group of friends, over accepting new ones. .

My Paris Dream was an interesting memoir. Highly recommended for Fashionistas, or those who want an inside look into the life of a French fashion journalist.

I deducted one star due to Betts’ constant name dropping and of mentions of connections, as it took away from the focus of the coming of age theme of her memoir.

This book was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.