When P.J Wallis, creator of peachy-skinned, button-nosed good-time girl Monica (of Monica: A Girl’s Guide to Being A Girl, its three sequels and four movies) was christened Pandemonia, someone must have been looking into a crystal ball. She might have been born into faded elegance in a dilapidated mansion in the Hudson Valley, but after years of struggle, Pandy Wallis – the fabulously successful author – is cutting a swathe through Manhattan, leaving a trail of trashed pool clubs, shrieking girlfriends and empty pink-champagne bottles in her wake. And then there are the men: if it’s not movie star Doug Stone, with his chiselled jaw and megawatt smile, it’s darkly glamorous celebrity chef husband Jonny Balaga, who brings some very specialised skills to Pandy’s table.
But as a Monica on Top billboard as big as Bergdorf Goodman raises its head about the New York skyline, all is not well in P.J Wallis’s world. Jonny Balaga has sunk his teeth into her earnings, her loyal agent Henry is losing patience and her soul sister, sidekick and saviour – actress SondraBeth Schnowzer (who also happens to play Monica) – has betrayed her. Worst of all, though, P.J. Wallis has had enough of her lucrative alter ego. Yearning to return to her roots, she dodges divorce lawyers, lightning strikes and a giant revolving Lazy Susan. It beings to look like to only way out for Pandemonia is killing Monica – even if it kills her too.
In ‘Killing Monica’, Bushnell spoofs and skewers her way through pop culture, celebrity worship, fame and even the meaning of life itself, when a famous writer must resort to faking her own death in order to get her life back from her most infamous creation – Monica. With her trademark humour and style, Killing Monica is Bushnell’s sharpest, funniest book to date.
What I thought:
I was so excited when I saw Killing Monica come up on the publisher’s list last month. I’ve been a Candace Bushnell fan for a long time – like most of us, I started by watching Sex and the City and then moved into reading her books. I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into this one.
It just didn’t happen for me though. I found the characters one-dimensional, lacking in depth and this, in turn, meant that I found it difficult to connect with them and thus care about the outcome of the story.
There are obvious parallels with real-life in this book. Pandy is the successful author of a much-loved character (ahem….Carrie anyone?) who has three best friends; Suzette, Meghan and Portia (hello Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte). Pandy has a signature drink, not a cosmopolitan, but pink champagne. Pandy is desperate to pen a literary novel and move on from her chic-lit past and feels that the only way she can break free is to kill her hugely popular character.
‘Killing Monica’ is trying to be a novel about feminism, and doesn’t quite hit the mark. There are a few well-made points hidden in amongst Pandy’s rambling, but they were quickly obliterated by the silliness that was the rest of the novel. I think Ms Bushnell herself knows how silly this book became – her acknowledgements start with mentions of a ‘crazy creative journey’ and talking of her imagination running wild.
All in all, I felt like I had read this before. If you are looking for literary candyfloss (or should that be Candace floss?), something quick and easy, but no real substance then this novel is for you. It’s fine, but leaves no lasting impression.
I give it 5/10
(Book supplied by Hachette NZ)