BOOK A DATE THIS SUMMER
It's Summer. It's time to relax and read. Maybe it's the latest "chick novel" from bestselling author Plum Sykes, or maybe it's Helen Thomas' critique of the press coverage of The White House in Watchdogs of Democracy?: The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has
Failed the Public that might perk your reading appetite for the summer. Here are some choices to engage for that long beach read.
THE DEBUTANTE DIVORCE
By Plum Sykes
After sharing secrets about how to find an ideal
husband in Bergdorf Blondes, Sykes dishes
on how to lose one in her follow-up novel, The
Debutante Divorcée. Washington Life sat down
with Sykes to discuss the book and the growing
trend of young women divorcées.
Washington Life: After graduating from Oxford - how did you end up in New York, and at Vogue?
Plum Sykes: My mom is a fashion stylist and
my dad is from a writerly family, though he
wasn't actually a writer himself. When I came
out of [university], I thought, what am I going
to do? My two great loves were fashion from
my mom, and the writing from my dad - my
grandfather was a quite well-known writer in
the UK. I was a fashion writer
at British Vogue, and then I was
offered a job at American Vogue.
But you don't set out to write
social comedies about New
York rich girls. You may be
suited to it without knowing
it, and that's probably what
happened to me. When I was
doing the fashion writing, I
was always actually writing
about that girl in the dress,
not the dress itself.
WL: How true to life do you
think this story is?
PS: Well, the story is made
up, but the fact is I wrote the
story because the girls exist.
Obviously I can't say who
they are, but I thought it was
like a social phenomenon
that these girls were getting
divorced very young, at 27
or 28 and instead of going
home and moping they were
partying harder than Lindsay Lohan and very
much not looking for a husband.
WL: There is a NY/LA socialite (who shall
remain nameless) who had a big, wonderful
wedding in a castle in Europe and on her
wedding night, her sister-in-law walked in as
she was sleeping with a guest.
PS: In the old days, if you married at 23
and it wasn't working, you would have just
sucked it up. There's no shame in [divorcing]
anymore. In London, it's much worse and
that's why I've always thought that it is so
nice for American girls, because in America
and particularly in New York, you can reinvent
yourself. You can be the lewd divorcée
one minute and the "it girl" the next minute.
You can transform yourself.
WL: The "husband hunters" you write about in
The Debutante Divorcée, do you run across a lot
PS: One husband hunter. Well, I can't remember
who she was, but I came across one girl and
someone said about her, "Oh, she only dates
people's husbands. She's not interested in a man
who isn't already taken."
WL: You give lots of little fashion tips, in places
to go shopping or have drinks around the world.
In addition, there are some wonderful details
and astute social observations in this book.
PS: I think in a way I am different than most of
the other girl novelists who are out there right
now. I'm definitely coming at it from a Vogue
angle, if you know what I mean. I've always
been able to make a fashion detail turn into a
WL: What makes someone fun and interesting
in New York? In Washington, people are very
worldly, active and interested in actually doing
something for other people.
PS: Even the odd characters who don't have a
job, they are always doing something - raising
money for charity, or they've seen every
Broadway play, they're very up on everything.
The thing is you can't get away in New York
with being a dumb blonde.
WL: Have you ever tried the illegal vitamin drip
that you write about?
PS: I was feeling run down and my friend said
to me, "Oh you've got to get the illegal vitamin
drip." I went and the nutritionist put a Japanese
concoction drip into my arm. The weird thing
is that it does make you feel much better, but
it's probably dangerous. I mentioned him in
the book and he's very cool - he's like Warren
Beatty from Shampoo, in these amazing jeans
and a white shirt. He goes to hotels around
the world with bags and bags of syringes, it's
Insatiable: Tales from a life of
By Gale Greene
For anyone who loves food, former New York
magazine columnist Greene tells stories of
her passion for haute cuisine and fine wines,
breathless sexual trysts with lovers such as Elvis,
Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds, and exotic
travel. A delicious beach read.
Identity Crisis: How Identification
is Overused and Misunderstood
By Jim Harper
Cato Institute Fellow Jim Harper explores
identification technology, including
biometrics, identity cards, surveillance databases
and dossiers, and the threat they pose to personal
privacy and liberties. Harper takes a look at
whether identification can protect us from terrorist
attacks and the effects of this technology.
By Phillip Roth
Hailed by some reviewers as a "masterpiece,"
Roth's newest work is a portrait of a man
struggling at the end of his life and reflecting on
failed marriages, unfulfilled dreams, and missed
opportunities. Everyman is a book that should
be included in your summer night reading.
The Man of My Dreams
By Curtis Sittenfeld
Prep author and St. Alban's teacher
Sittenfield shares the poignant story of
Hannah Gavener's development from teenager
to finding her own identity as a college student
at Tufts to being a young woman trying to make
it in her early 20s.
Lost and Found
By Carolyn Parkhurst
Washington writer Parkhurst brings the
story of seven couples trotting the globe
in "Lost and Found", a reality television show.
Surprisingly fun, Lost and Found is a witty book
written with a lot of heart.
SEX WITH THE QUEEN
By Eleanor Herman
In the follow-up to the bestselling Sex with Kings, Eleanor Herman
reveals the scintillating secrets of the queen's boudoir. Full of wellresearched
and detailed storytelling, Sex with the Queen offers an
enlightening twist on royal politics. She will follow up with her next
book, Sex with Popes.
The Worst Job in History, The Queen
My research for Sex with
the Queen led me to a shocking
speaking, the worst job in any
given country, in any given
century, was not chamberpot
emptier, as I had thought.
Almost always, the worst job
was to be the queen. The king
rarely loved his wife, whom
he had married for political
reasons, and his bedtime
duties were not romantic so
much as dynastic. The court
usually rallied around the king's
influential mistress - or mister
- and not the unwanted,
Many princesses - including Diana, Princess of Wales - plunged
from starry-eyed optimism to bleak despair within months of the royal
wedding and took lovers to assuage the pain. In her 1995 television
interview, Diana solemnly intoned, "There were three of us in the
marriage, so it was a bit crowded," a pointed reference to Prince
Charles' long-time mistress Camilla Parker-Bowles. Yet if Diana had
included her own lovers, the list would have been closer to fifteen.
Diana is only the latest in a string of unfaithful royal women
stretching back centuries. Surprisingly, some kings didn't care if their
wives took lovers, such as King Carlos IV of Spain (1788-1808) who
obligingly named his wife's lover prime minister, thereby freeing himself
from government duties so he could hunt rabbits. Two of the king's
children were the spitting image of the prime minister, which makes me
think that royal bloodlines might not be so royal after all.
Other monarchs cared very much indeed about the queen's
fidelity, such as Henry VIII, who beheaded Anne Boleyn and
Catherine Howard for adultery. Many other queens were divorced,
exiled, and imprisoned for taking
lovers, though it was considered an
admirable show of virility for the
king to flaunt his mistresses.
Writing this book changed my
outlook on life. Many women, living
at the pinnacle of luxury, are trapped
in abject misery. Empress Josephine
Bonaparte said, "Believe me, ladies,
do not envy a splendor that does not
constitute happiness." She was right.
I will never be jealous of a queen
again. - Eleanor Herman