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Sunday, September 26, 2010

'Last Night at Chateau Marmont' by Lauren WEISBERGER

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:

Heartbreak, headlines and Hermes - welcome to Brooke′s new world...
Brooke and Julian live a happy life in New York - she′s the breadwinner working two jobs and he′s the struggling musician husband. Then Julian is discovered by a Sony exec and becomes an overnight success - and their life changes for ever.

Soon they are moving in exclusive circles, dining at the glitziest restaurants, attending the most outrageous parties in town and jetting off to the trendiest hotspots in LA.
But Julian′s new-found fame means that Brooke must face the savage attentions of the ruthless paparazzi. And when a scandalous picture hits the front pages, Brooke′s world is turned upside down. Can her marriage survive the events of that fateful night at Chateau Marmont? It′s time for Brooke to decide if she′s going to sink or swim...

Brooke and Julian Alter are practically penniless and perfectly happy. Brooke works two jobs as a nutritionist at a New York ER, and as a consultant at a private girl’s school. Brooke works to support her musician husband, Julian. Julian is really talented, like a cuter John Mayer with the voice of an angel. And it’s only a matter of time until he hits the big time. Married for five years now, Brooke and Julian are the perfect couple – sickeningly in love, the envy of their single friends and living the bohemian dream in the Big Apple. Life is good. And then fame comes a callin’ and life starts to unravel...

Julian signs a big contract with Sony and drops a successful album. Suddenly Julian’s song is in the Billboard charts, his face is on billboards and he’s touring with Maroon 5. He plays a gig on the Jay Leno show and at the Grammy’s. It’s a whirlwind fame-game for Julian Alter, the hot new kid on the Holllywood block, and his ‘civilian’ wife Brooke can barely keep up.

And then come the rumours. Tabloid gossip. Internet speculation. And finally an incriminating photo taken at the infamous Chateau Marmont that will put Julian and Brooke to the test.

Lauren Weisberger is the ridiculously successful author of ‘The Devil Wears Prada’. In the past Weisberger has written about the fashion world’s seedy underbelly, lifted the curtain on Public Relations and revealed the warts on Manhattan marriage. In ‘Last Night at Chateau Marmont’ Weisberger goes for the celebrity jugular, revealing the ins and outs, ups and downs of the fame game... and it is so, so good.

Weisberger’s book has perfect timing. Released in the aftermath of Tiger Woods and Jesse James, it’s fair to say that society as a whole have been grotesquely fascinated with the dirty laundry of cheating celebrities. ‘Last Night at Chateau Marmont’ is like a voyeuristic trip behind the closed doors of the famous and fabulous, observing the nasty underbelly of the red carpet and the destructive secrets of celebrity.

The story is ultimately about 15 minutes of fame through the eyes of a ‘civilian’. Brooke Alter is on the outside looking in at the celebrity juggernaut. She is a wonderful down-to-earth heroine; a career-driven carer and devoted wife who truly believes in her husband’s brilliance. Brooke is such a good protagonist because she is so relatable; from struggling to pay the bills, working two jobs and ignoring friend’s criticisms of her bread-winning role in her marriage. Brooke is also the perfect vessel through which to observe the glitz and glam of Hollywood. When Julian’s career takes off, Brooke is literally swept up in the grandeur of his fame, left in the whirlwind of parties, publicists and tour schedules. It’s great to read about fame one-stepped removed from the flashbulbs – the story is much more interesting and closer to home through Brooke’s eyes as an unwilling observer. I loved reading her hilarious reactions to meeting Jon Bon Jovi, worrying about losing thousands of dollars worth of jewellery at the Grammy’s and being embarrassed by ‘baby bump’ rumours.
... which showed a paparazzi picture of Brooke grocery shopping at her neighbourhood Gristedes. Her belly looked flatter, no doubt, but that wasn’t what did the trick. In the photo she held a basket with bananas, a four-pack of yoghurt, a liter of Poland Spring, a bottle of Windex, and, apparently, a box of Tampax. The Pearl version, super absorbency, should the world be interested, and it was circled with a thick black marker and a caption that screamed ‘No baby for the Alters!’ as though the magazine, through some sort of savvy detective work, had really gotten to the bottom of the issue.
The first-half of the book is quite a giggle-fest, and I did find myself chortling at some of the celebrity antics and Weisberger’s asinine observations of the rich and famous;
“... Which leads us all to wonder: will JBro go the way of TomKat and keep the faith? Stay tuned...”
“Did I hear you correctly? Did you just say ‘JBro’?” Brooke asked, convinced he’d made that part up.
“Scientology!” Julian nearly shouted before Brooke shushed him. “They think we’re Scientologists!”
The second-half of the novel is a slow slide into the sad side of celebrity. Julian becomes the victim of tall-poppy syndrome, and Brooke has to hear rumours about her husband that may or may not be true. Although Weisberger is writing about a celebrity, and the potential melt-down of a marriage in the spotlight, the relationships hurdles that Brooke and Julian face are universal. Cheating and trust are not the exclusive property of celebrities, no matter how much their dirty laundry dominates headlines. Although Weisberger puts an interesting spin on things by making her characters famous, their problems are no less relatable for their infamy;
Bangs exhaled a final smoke ring and stamped her cigarette out in the sink. “They’re dead in the water,” she announced with the confidence of someone who’s seen everything, been everywhere, met everyone. “She’s sweet and mousy, and he’s a god. Gods and nurses don’t mix.”
The one problem I had with the book was Julian, or to be more precise; Brooke and Julian. I wanted a little more time devoted to their marriage and to catching a glimpse of the man before he became a celebrity. Because when Brooke starts hearing rumours about her husband, and eventually sees picture-proof of his indiscretions, I felt frustrated that she hadn’t called him out sooner. But of course, Brooke protests (to herself, friends and family) that she loves and trusts Julian that he isn’t that type of man. I feel like I would have believed this, and accepted Brooke’s hesitation whole-heartedly if I had read more evidence of the love between them. As it is, I was practically yelling at the page for Brooke to ‘open her eyes’ and ‘dump his ass’! Consequently, because I was so quick to demonize Julian, I would have appreciated more apologizing/grovelling from him.

Weisberger is writing ‘Chateau’ in the wake of Tiger Woods and Jesse James, and she references them and other celeb infidelities quite a bit. Because of this, as a reader, I did vilify Julian and his behaviour. It’s bound to happen with a lot of readers – those of us who do read trashy mags and gossip blogs and have formed opinions of these celebrities based on whisper and rumour. Those readers who are ‘Team Aniston’ and murmur ‘poor old Sandra Bullock’ will have a hard time reconciling with Julian’s character. I was reading Julian as the next Jesse James or David Letterman, casting him as the book’s villain. For that reason I wish Weisberger had written more compelling reasons for readers to root for him and Brooke, and to not be so quick to persecute Julian.

I also loved Weisberger’s name-dropping throughout the book. She writes about the celebrities who grace the corridors of Chateau Marmont, Brooke and Julian attend a ‘Friday Night Lights’ show party and hobnob at the Grammy’s. And Weisberger peppers these star-studded scenes with real-life celebs; everyone from Benecio Del Toro to Nicole Kidman and KidRock is mentioned. The name-dropping and famous locations give the book authenticity, and a certain ‘wow’ factor that pops on the page.

Lauren Weisberger has written yet another fabulous novel that takes the sheen off the glitz and glamour, this time revealing the seedy underbelly of celebrity. ‘Last Night at Chateau Marmont’ is a summer-read chick-lit extravaganza not to be missed.

4/5




3 comments:

  1. this isn't usually a book I'd be drawn too - but you make it sound so good that I'm itching to track it down.

    really well reviewed :)

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  2. Awesome review! I havent read any of her books, though I love The DWP movie =P

    It sounds fun and like something I'd prob enjoy reading =)

    Finally catching up on reading and commenting on your posts LOL

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  3. I've just bought this book- I think I'll be bumping it up my TBR list! Great review :)

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