Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine


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.

Plum Sykes

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?
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.
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 of them?
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.
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 great story.

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.
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?
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 very weird.


Insatiable: Tales from a life of Delicious Excess
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.


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 conclusion. Historically 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, powerless queen.

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

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