Bergdorf Blondes, by Plum Sykes

Dating and mating in Park Avenue
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

British-born fashionista Plum Sykes is the latest in a glamorous line to dish the dirt on the Upper East Side marriage market. Edith Wharton, Dorothy Parker and Tama Janowitz have all been inspired by the Manhattan man-hunt, but it's tough for Sykes's novel to arrive hot on the heels of Candace Bushnell.

British-born fashionista Plum Sykes is the latest in a glamorous line to dish the dirt on the Upper East Side marriage market. Edith Wharton, Dorothy Parker and Tama Janowitz have all been inspired by the Manhattan man-hunt, but it's tough for Sykes's novel to arrive hot on the heels of Candace Bushnell.

Social satire is in the detail, and Sykes has made herself an expert on the dating and mating rituals of Park Avenue Princesses. These high-maintenance party girls (whose fathers' names trade on the New York Stock Exchange) are gorgeous, flaxen-haired and "dermatologically perfect". Just as Wharton enlivened her prose with petticoats and place settings, so Sykes catalogues the talismanic accessories of the fabulous life. The right ones (Chloe jeans, NARS Candy Darling pink nail polish, a private jet) will make you "deliriously happy"; the wrong ones (brown hair, last season's fringed Missoni frock) can result in clinical depression.

Guiding us through the Manhattan jungle are "Moi", the novel's half-English narrator, and best friend Julie Bergdof (as in the department store). The neurotic twosome spend their days battling "issues" with the receptionist at Bliss spa, or resolving them at their therapists. There's not much Julie is not allergic to: all wheat products, flying business class, even her ethnic roots - a complex which vanishes as soon she learns that Gwyneth Paltrow, too, is part-Wasp part-Jew.

The most pressing concern, however, is how to land a Prospective Husband. The girls turn to Muffy, doyenne of Fifth Avenue socialites, to set the seating plans in motion. "I just want to fall in love," confides Julie, "and have radiant skin without having to get Vitamin C injections".

At Muffy's charity soirée, "Moi" gets to bag the first PH: a gorgeous photographer, with a temperament as moody as his work. The couple disappear for a romantic weekend at Chateau Marmont, but after a hissy fit (his) the engagement is off. On hand to save our heroine is transplanted British movie auteur, Charlie Dunlain. You can tell he's the Colin Firth of the piece by the way the couple cross swords each time they meet.

For a novel about shopping, Bergdorf Blondes is surprisingly coy when it comes to sex. "Moi" does sleep with men, but calls it "going to Brazil" - as in the bikini wax. The euphemism conjures up visions of swarthy suitors permanently glued to "Moi"'s well-tended pudendum. Which, in fact, they are.

Entre nous, Sykes's novel is a pretty entertaining read for anyone interested in Michael Kors "slouchy pants", the best suite at the Mercer (606), or advances in depilatory technology. It took a team of gifted scriptwriters to transform Bushnell's Sex and the City into every girl's favourite show, and Bergdorf Blondes shouts out for a similar spritzing of sisterly cynicism and emotion. There's nothing wrong with fluff. But too much superfluous scenery, as "Moi" will tell you, can obscure the view.

Comments