Happy New Year to everyone! I came down with a flu on New Year's Day, hoping everyone else is starting things off a little bit better. Today I wanted to share two books I recently finished, one being Diane von Furstenburg's autobio and the other a historical fiction account of New York City.
New York: The Novel, by Edward Rutherfurd
This historical fiction piece provides a sweeping history of New York City from the 1600s through 9/11. A massive undertaking for the author, although somehow he's written similar accounts of Paris, London, and Russia. The book follows the Master family, starting with their original Dutch ancestor, trapping beaver and fighting with his wife in the wilderness of Manhattan (yeah, wilderness). It follows the Master family line right on through colonial times, the Revolutionary war, Civil War, emancipation, the Great Depression, the sixties, eighties, etc. The Master family interacts with characters that each represent all the different cultures that came to make up Manhattan as well, from Irish and Italian immigrants, to Brooklyn Jews, to poor Puerto Rican families fighting gangs in Harlem.
What I liked about this book was getting a flip book style view of history. It all happens so seamlessly, one minute Lower Manhattan is swampland and the next it's full of skyscrapers. I also loved how just plain nice the characters were (though, of course, that made it less realistic). The bad thing about the book was that it actually feels a little fluffy, almost like chick lit. Maybe it's because almost all of the characters get lucky breaks, or maybe it's because the author sort of flies through some periods, but I have to say it's not actually the most substantial read. Definitely fun, cool, and enjoyable overall though. If you don't mind sinking into an 800-pager, check this one out.
The Woman I Wanted to Be, by Diane von Furstenburg
Ugh. I wanted to love this one. I love DVF's clothes, and her column in InStyle magazine, and I've always found interviews with her to be very interesting. I couldn't wait to read her autobio, but I was disappointed.
I started out liking it but came away feeling almost brainwashed. She talks about all aspects of her life, from her childhood, her marriages, family, love affairs, and ups and downs in her business, but only in the most superficial way. Her goal seems to be flaunting her glamorous, jet-set lifestyle, and it comes off as pretty narcissistic. For example, she constantly talks about her love for her husband, Barry Diller, but then has all these periods where she leaves him for a few years to be with other men, and talks about this as if it's totally normal and fine, just something she needed to do. She also totally glosses over her bout with cancer, making it sound like she spent a few weeks at a yoga retreat. Her treatment of the topic was so surface that the reader can't connect with her at all. She goes on and on about Studio 54, and all her celebrity encounters, and never once addresses any flaws in herself or talks about her struggles in any real way. It's not worth reading. Skip this one.