Reading Candace Bushnell’s latest book, Trading Up, is like a combination of watching Sex and the City and reading a vintage Jackie Collins novel. The clothes from Sex and the City are all there (not surprisingly, since Candace wrote the original book entitled Sex and the City, which introduced Carrie Bradshaw), but the characters and situations are reminiscent of Collins’ books in her heyday. Scandalous, tawdry and unrelentingly biting, Trading Up will make you think twice if you’ve ever had aspirations of rising to the cream of the crop in New York City.
The book chronicles a few months in the life of Janey Wilcox, a Victoria’s Secret model in her early 30s who has finally become a fixture in the upper echelons of New York society. But nothing is good enough for Janey, who always wants to be the best, the most beautiful and the most talked-about. Unfortunately, Janey’s got a sordid past that involves unsavory relationships with a variety of rich men, and she’s got a reputation around town of doing anything for money. This doesn’t stop her from marrying Seldon Rose, a powerful executive at a movie company. Janey thinks her life will be perfect since she’s married rich and has made friends with all the right people, but her never-ending quest for more money and power threatens to be her downfall.
Bushnell obviously knows what she’s talking about when it comes to the best of the best in the world of power and money. She writes knowledgeably about clothing, restaurants, hot spots and the pecking order that is New York City. She also creates the perfect power-hungry creature in Janey Wilcox, a woman who will stop at nothing to get ahead. Unfortunately, Bushnell doesn’t create one main character who is likeable or sympathetic -- especially her main character. Throughout the book, the reader finds herself wishing that Janey will be brought down because of her lack of redeeming qualities. Some of her worst moments come when she interacts with her sister, just about the only decent character in the book (who gets pitifully little page time) and whom Janey uses with reckless abandon.
Along with the lack of characters to cheer on or feel anything for, Bushnell also deals her book a blow by introducing a whole new cast of characters in the last twenty pages of the book. It’s obvious that Bushnell is setting up the next book in her series, but it made this book seem incomplete and slightly manipulative. Despite these obvious flaws, Trading Up is a fun, catty read that gives us regular people a peek into the world of the rich and famous. Janey Wilcox, whether you hate or just pity her, is not a character you will soon forget, and her story makes for a few nights of sordid reading pleasure.