(Reviewed by Kam Aures SEP 24, 2003)
The novel begins in the year 2000 on Memorial Day weekend in New York City. Janey is on her way out to the Hamptons when she receives a phone call from Comstock Dibble, the head of Parador Pictures. Not having heard from him for almost a year, "the sound of his voice brought back a host of unpleasant associations. Comstock Dibble had been her lover the summer before, and Janey had actually fancied herself in love with him - until he suddenly became engaged to socialite Mauve Binchely, a tall, reedy socialite. His rejection of her in favor of another woman (one who wasn't, Janey thought, even remotely pretty) had been made all the more bitter by the fact that this was a scenario that had repeated itself many times in the past. While men were perfectly happy to date her, when it came to the ultimate union of marriage they always seemed to spurn her." The purpose of Comstock's phone call was to order Janey not to make any trouble for him as they were both attending top socialite Mimi Kilroy's party that evening. As Janey's sarcastic side came out, Comstock threatened her and after a string of expletives hung up the phone.
Janey is extremely thrilled to have been invited to Mimi's party. In the past Mimi had barely even acknowledged Janey's presence and even seemingly made it a point to ignore her. But now that Janey had finally made a name for herself in New York, Mimi was suddenly acting like her best friend.
At Mimi's party Janey is introduced to Selden Rose, the head of the cable channel MovieTime, -- and who will eventually become her husband. "He might not have been the man that Janey had always imagined she would marry, but the man you did marry never was. Janey had already dated every man in New York and nothing had worked out. And Selden was crazy about her - everyone who saw them together remarked upon it - and it was always better to have a husband who was more in love with you than you were with him."
The rest of the novel explores Janey's trials and tribulations in trying to successfully make it in high society life. It is not an easy ride for her as issues from her past are brought out into the open and threaten to ruin her reputation forever.
Janey is one of those leading characters that you love to hate. It seems as if her only goal in life is to be a top player in the society scene and she will do whatever it takes to get there. Her incessant shallowness can be irritating at times. For instance, she took her sister Patty to lunch at Dingo's, a happening restaurant, because she knew that Mimi had plans to be there that day. As Patty was spilling to Janey how she was trying but unable to get pregnant, Janey's main concern was to be acknowledged by Mimi when Mimi arrived.
Another example of Janey's shallowness is conveyed when Patty's husband, rock star Digger, is involved in a scandal with another woman who claims that she is pregnant with Digger's child. The news made Star Magazine and a picture of her sister is run. "She picked it up and studied her sister's photograph. As she did a terrible thought occurred to her. She was actually a tiny bit...envious." Janey was jealous because her sister was in Star Magazine and Janey herself had never been in the magazine.
I do admit that I was very disappointed by Bushnell's previous novel 4 Blondes, but I decided to give this new one a shot as it has been on the bestselling lists and I do like the HBO series Sex in the City. Unlike 4 Blondes, I was able to read this one in its entirety but was not truly satisfied with the book. It is a quick read but it is also a very shallow one. The story line goes off on a lot of tangents and it is hard to keep track of all of the characters. Some of the characters show back up at the end of the novel but I had to flip back through the pages to figure out who the person actually was. Bushnell's ending of the novel leaves it wide open for a sequel, which will be a sequel that I don't think I will be reading.
- Amazon readers rating: from 181 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Trading Up at Hyperion
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- 4 Blondes: novellas (2000)
- Trading Up (July 2003)
- Lipstick Jungle (September 2005)
- One Fifth Avenue (June 2009)
- Sex and the City (1996)
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- New York Metro on Candace Bushnell
- Beatrice Interview with Candace Bushnell
- The HBO series Sex and the City
- Guardian Unlimited review of Trading Up
- Independent.co.uk review of Trading Up
- DenverPost.com review of Trading Up
- ReviewOfBooks.com collection of reviews for Trading Up
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About the Author:
Candace Bushnell is the author of the international bestseller Sex and the City which is a collection of article she wrote as a columnist for The New York Observer, which were then turned into the Emmy Award Winning HBO series. She lives in New York City.