Lauren Weisberger follows up The Devil Wears Prada with a story about a nutritionist who is married to a rock star. That creates some interesting tensions.
Last Night at Chateau Marmont
Lauren Weisberger’s Last Night at Chateau Marmont (384 pages, Altria, $25.99) follows the marriage of Brooke and Julian Alter. Brooke works two jobs as a nutritionist in order to help Julian get his music career off the ground. He is a soulful singer-songwriter who first caught Brooke’s eye when he was singing his heart out. Brooke believes in him, even if her friends and (especially) his parents do not. His parents, a wealthy pair of doctors who live on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, think their son is wasting his time. They also make it clear that they have no use for Brooke, which only makes her try to please them more.
Imagine everyone’s surprise, then, when Julian’s music is actually taken seriously by Sony and when, after some trial runs and controlled performances, his career really starts to take off. Brooke is at first so thrilled that she hardly knows what to do; but it quickly becomes apparent that Julian's needs and demands as a performer will conflict with her own career plans.
At first she is rigid about her two jobs and her commitment to them. She really does love her work, it seems, and she wants to prove that she can do it all. It becomes increasingly apparent to the reader that she cannot, and eventually she loses both jobs, one on account of her increasingly frequent absences, and the other, on account of the notoriety that her position as wife of a rock star brings along with it; the private school where she works as a nutritionist has no alternative but to let her go.
This would be bad enough, but her relations with Julian are strained at the same time. His schedule is grueling, and he finds himself accepting tours and interviews even when she cannot be with him. Added to this professional loneliness is the incessant probing of the press and paparazzi. It gets so bad that they have to install blackout shades in their midtown Manhattan apartment. Even worse, the press seems to play this marriage as an odd choice for the handsome crooner who could have his choice of women. A slightly overweight, if not dumpy, red head is hardly what the cognoscenti would choose for him.
When it turns out that Julian may have been unfaithful, Brooke’s whole world falls apart, and until they are able to work out some way of trusting one another, the marriage seems doomed.
I can’t say that I found much sympathy for Brooke, whose demands seemed unreasonable. I was happy, I suppose, when the marriage was saved, but I also wondered why the woman had to be so dull and otherwise inappropriate as a rock star’s wife. I imagine that is best known to the author and this kind of tension is really what she wanted to emphasize. Maybe it will make a decent movie.
Last Night at Chateau Marmont is available at Powell's, Vroman's and Amazon.