Book review: 'Summer And The City'

Sunday, 3 July 2011 - 8:56am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
Carrie Bradshaw is everything that is annoying about 17-year-olds. The sad part is that she never outgrows this.

Summer And The City
Candace Bushnell
409 pages

Before Carrie Bradshaw was the iconic New York woman, she was a starry-eyed small-town girl who dreamt of ‘making it’ in the big bad city. In the Carrie Diaries series by Candace Bushnell, the Sex And The City franchise works backwards: It explains how Carrie dealt with high school, lost her virginity, and found friends who would stay by her side through life — Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha.

The second instalment of Carrie Diaries, Summer And The City, opens with Carrie setting out for New York, where she enrols in a summer writing course before leaving to attend Brown University in Rhode Island. Carrie plunges headfirst into Samantha’s world, who is already the rabid socialite with iron ambition. Carrie and Samantha traverse the shallow party circuit with aplomb.

Carrie is quickly ‘adopted’ by famed playwright Bernard Singer, who is the archetypal tortured artist with an on-and-off relationship with his ex-wife.

Carrie’s overconfidence in her own writing abilities is dashed when she encounters more talented classmates. In her desperation to impress Bernard, the 17-year-old Carrie writes a trite play about the dullness of a 20-year-old marriage, which, naturally, fails to impress.

Carrie’s classmate, L’il, disappears from the city after an ill-fated affair with their professor leaves her pregnant. “She came here to win, and the city beat her,” thinks Carrie sagely, wondering if the same fate awaits her.

Carrie also meets Miranda, who pickets regularly against men, sex and pornography, and whose hair is dyed red (“Like the Campbell’s soup can,” Miranda tells a puzzled Carrie).

The characters of Samantha and Miranda in this book clearly foreshadow the women we find in the television series: Samantha bends backwards to please her demanding fiance, but eventually chooses her career over marriage. The hardcore Miranda softens and finds that love and sex aren’t the bogeymen she’d imagined them to be.

Despite all the discrepancies between the book and the TV series, the one characterisation that is bang-on is the total self-absorption of Carrie Bradshaw. Carrie is alternately besotted with both struggling ‘artists’ and regal mansions; and men and women she encounters are merely self-reflections of who she wants to be and what she wants to avoid. She ignores her father’s repeated calls and petulantly ignores his new girlfriend even though she makes him happy. Carrie is everything that is annoying about 17-year-olds. The sad part is that she never outgrows this.

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