“. . . a crackling good read . . .”
Those looking for something to feed their denial that summer is over and autumn soon upon us, or who still mourn for the loss of all things Fifty Shade-ed, or who need something to fill the short moment remaining until “Gossip Girl” returns for its final season—for all of you, hope is at hand, as The Liar, the Bitch and the Wardrobe by Allie Kingsley is here and ready to take up the slack.
The book is the latest achievement in what could be called “déjà vu” literature, in that the reader will, all through the process of reading the book, be struck by the almost overwhelming notion that he or she has read it all before.
Which is not to say that The Liar isn’t fun.
It is. It’s a crackling good read, in fact. Something that is sustained from the “it was all a dream” opening, through the Pretty Woman meets Showgirls meets The Devil Wears Prada narrative, right up until the incredibly predictable ending. Never for a moment does the “nothing new-ness” of the novel get in the way of our enjoyment of it.
It is perhaps a simple reality: We never outgrow our childhood need to have someone “tell me a story,” or our willingness, indeed, our devotion to the choice of tale told being taken from a very short list of plots (talented, bighearted gal gets kinda bitchy as she works to achieve her goals as a photographer working in the Los Angeles fashion industry), locales (Hollywood in this case, as opposed to New York or occasionally London), or love interests (Rock God named “Jax” vs that incredibly nice guy from Back Home whom you never noticed before looks kinda casually great in his vintage T-shirt).
The simple truth is if you want to be overwhelmed by the beauty of prose, this is not your book. If you feel the need to read something Important, move along. But if you’ve read all the Jackie Collins you want for this lifetime but feel the need to know what the kids are up to out in L.A., look no further.
Where else are you going to find dilemmas like this one: Should Lucy snort the cocaine her boss, world class fashion photographer Stephano LePres, has so generously offered her?
“’Really, Lucy?’ He gave his signature eye roll to me and snorted a line. ‘You need to decide if you want to stay in this family. Don’t be so judgmental—I mean, look at us, we are on top of the world! The best in our industry! You could truly be a part of it if you would stop acting like it’s you against us.’ Stefano resumed indulging. ‘Even earlier today . . . we were having a ball on set while you were sniffing in the corner over a shot list.’
“After I got over the fact that he called me by my real name and acknowledged that I had created the shot list, his words began to sink in. He had a point. I was keeping myself away from the rest of the crew. How bad could coke be?”
The Liar, the Bitch and the Wardrobe contains all the ingredients necessary for a Hollywood novel, in the way that Junior’s contains all the ingredients needed for a New York Cheesecake.
Our author understands very well the nature of that particular beast and has slain it and served it up as a banquet complete with all the trimmings:
There’s the trip-and-fall in the doorway (very Fifty Shades of Grey) moment in which our Lucy manages to spill coffee all over herself in such a cute way that she soon is on the inner track of success at work.
There’s the much-anticipated, absolutely essential shopping spree (Pretty Woman Rodeo Drive variant, this time set in Las Vegas—more on that in a moment).
There are the restaurants for which it is impossible to get a reservation (Gigi’s—known about town as “G-spot”), nightclubs for which there are long, long lines, all of which Lucy manages to invade.
There are sports cars, private jets, needy movie stars, bitchy society gals, gay guy friends (named Roman and Sebastian), fair weather girlfriends, and stoned and/or drunken co-workers galore.
There’s the Moment of Truth in which Lucy shakes her crimson hair loose and realizes that she’s a total babe! (Also, during the Moment of Truth, she kicks off her ballerina flats, slips into her “neon pink patent Brian Atwood pumps” and climbs into the waiting limo.)
There’s the Moment of Reckoning when Lucy has to face herself in the mirror, judge her lifestyle, her behavior and her wardrobe and realize What She Has Become. (Are her Great New Clothes enough, or does she want Something More?)
There’s even this, a musical variation on the potter’s wheel duet from Ghost:
“A few guitar riffs ricocheted off the concave walls. Jax walked toward me, his guitar strapped across his chest. I nervously tucked a lock of hair behind my ear and smiled. Jax stood in front of me, improvising a melody. Feeling slightly awkward, I turned my back to him, continuing to search for his ring. Unexpectedly, Jax lifted the guitar over me and put it across my torso. I was strapped between the Gibson and Jax as he continued to play. I instinctively put my hands on his forearms as his hands continued to create entrancing sounds. He nuzzled his face into my neck. I boldly turned my body toward him, wrapping my arms around his neck. He lowered the guitar and drew me even closer. Looking into each other’s eyes, our lips barely grazed. I could feel Jax breathing. He smelled so masculine.”
As a modern author working in this post-Prada age, Allie Kingsley is, of course, obsessed with labels. And free clothing (just like Julia Roberts and Anne Hathaway both filled their closets with).
In what has to be the giddiest moment in recent memory, our gal Lucy is treated to a fashion makeover by Hollywood mega-star/has-been (she’s referred to both ways, so you decide), Isabella “Bella” Blackstone:
“’Why is this store called Alphabet?’ I asked the Zac Posen look-alike positioning a Philip Treacy fascinator on my head at just the right angle.
“’Because, darling, here you will find the ABC’s of fashion,’ Posen explained. “Alexander McQueen, Balmain, Chanel…’
“A Rachel Zoe wannabe removed a copper-feathered Helmut Lang vest from my shoulders and replaced it with a rose faux fur Fendi bolero while reciting, ‘Dior, Etro, Fendi . . .’ Pushing my shoulders back, she went on, ‘Gucci, Hermes, Isaac . . .’ My knees went weak.
“Bella ran up to us, champagne in hand, chiming, ‘I love it! Now that’s a Hollywood photographer!’
“I defended what I’ve always believed. ‘Nobody cares what the photographer looks like! We’re behind the scenes . . .’
“’Really? What is Annie Liebovitz’s signature style?’
“I knew this! She was one of my favorites. ‘Easy, black button-down shirts.’
“Bella shot me a knowing look and directed the attention to the stylists. ‘Ladies?’
“They chimed, ‘Lavin, runway.’
“I gasped. ‘No . . .’ It was as if I’d been living a lie. Okay, that’s dramatic. But come on! Next they’d try to convince me that Dian Fossey only wore Givenchy while working with the gorillas.”
There are no predictions to be made for The Liar, the Bitch and the Wardrobe concerning any of the many literary prizes given out in any calendar year. But there is this simple suggestion: When the film version is made, as it likely will be, the redheaded actress Emma Stone would be well cast in the lead.
I can already picture her in that faux fur Fendi bolero . . .