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The Spare Wife: A novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 5, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Witchel (Me Times Three) returns to the romances of Manhattan's upper echelons in this Gawkeriffic potboiler. Ponce Porter passed up college and left Harding, S.C., to try New York as an aspiring young model and quickly ended up married to Lee Morris, a very wealthy TV producer almost 40 years her senior. Childless by choice and bored, Ponce enrolled in NYU and then law school, eventually settling at a prestigious firm. Cut to the now-widowed Ponce—now 42 and dubbed The Spare Wife for her ability to gracefully attend social functions with any and all of upper New York—locking lips in a Chicago hotel with the happily married celebrity fertility doctor Neil Grossman, where she's spotted by Babette Steele, an aspiring 25-year-old assistant at the prestigious Boothby's Review. Babette knows she has the breakout story of her career, but Ponce and her delightfully crafted cast of friends aim to spoil Babette's feast. Witchel's drama-filled portrait of 40-something socialites in the Paris Hilton era has scandalous affairs and social to-dos to spare. It's extravagant and shallow, closely observed and entertaining. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Witchel plumbs the shallows of celebrity journalism in this nimble look at the high stakes involved when covering high society. Among Manhattan’s glitterati, wealthy divorcée Ponce Morris is a rarity among trophy ex-wives: she’s adored by her female friends for her entertaining elegance and by their husbands for her genuine interest in sports and politics. Indeed, her loudly proclaimed aversion to romance or remarriage makes her the most sought-after companion in town. But when ambitious young editorial assistant Babette Steele catches Ponce in a passionate embrace with happily married Dr. Neil Grossman, fertility doctor to the stars, the possibility of a glitzy magazine scoop exposing Ponce’s hypocrisy seems like Babette’s ticket to media mecca. Siccing everyone from a private eye to her personal trainer on Ponce’s trail, Babette fails to consider the strength of Ponce’s social connections nor her zealous talent for self-preservation. Thanks to New York Times lifestyle reporter Witchel’s insider knowledge of media machinations, this spry and pithy satire bursts with nipping, sardonic humor. --Carol Haggas
Top customer reviews
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Babette, an assistant editor, with huge ambition and few scruples knows the secret. She is willing to play all of her cards. She wants the money and the status that Ponce has, and she doesn't want to wait.
I enjoy a book set in a world of wealth and power. Every once in a while it is fun to have a luxurious setting for my reading. I agree with Didion and believe that Witchel does a nice job on casting a fresher eye on an admittedly time worn plot. Witchel gives us some finely turned character development, and I am a fan of her writing. Ponce and Babette are portrayed at a multidimensional level that I wouldn't have predicted given the plot line. The book was fun and good company on a winter day.
This formula is familiar and would have worked a whole lot better for me in this book if author Alex Witchel had given the story a much sharper edge. But this isn't "Bonfire of the Vanities" with its whipsaw extremes of character and behavior and nasty consequences. In "The Spare Wife," the characters seem pushed toward the mushy center of behavior and the concept of "fierceness" is not present. Even the author's heroine, Ponce, who is presented as the paragon of independent spirit and unfailing kindness through most of the story, becomes less unique and kind in her theoretical triumph in one of the last chapters of the book. At the other end of the character spectrum, the story's villainess--young, beautiful and sneaky, Babette, is punished in the end by "having" to marry a handsome, megarich "older" man. This is punishment that is hard to see as justice.
Author Witchel is a decent writer and delivers some witty zingers in the book's dialogue, but on the whole, "The Spare Wife" is froth without the guilty pleasure of whipped cream, from beginning to end.
I could have happily continued to read for another couple of hundred pages.
The work of this hugely gifted writer is highly recommended.
But even with a couple redeeming qualities, it's still mainly a waste of time.
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