This novel by Wall Street insider Alexandra Lebenthal will reinforce every stereotype anyone ever had about rich wives who marry 'masters of the universe' and live on the upper east side of New York City. Two words -- vapid and clueless -- pretty much cover the female characters that people this book, with the exception of the two righteous ones, Sasha and Renee, who can be described as 'stereotypically virtuous.' Renee, an African American, is especially over the goody-two-shoes top. It's almost as if Lebenthal felt it was her social duty to integrate the novel with a character who illustrates the poor, but noble, downtrodden class.
The book is short on dialogue and long on stilted narration that explains the feelings of the characters rather than shows them. At times it's slow going, as Lebenthal educates readers about the incredibly vacuous habits of the rich and social. For some of these women, chairing the Christmas benefit is the highlight of their lives. The sad part is that Lebenthal is of that world and so probably knows what she's talking about.
That said, I still give Recessionistas three stars. If you can get past the cardboard characters and amateurish writing, it is actually quite entertaining. While Candice Bushnell, and certainly Dominick Dunne, are better writers who cover similar territory, I believe that this first effort by Lebenthal shows that she has a knack for capturing the essence of the life that is lived by the people many of us love to watch, mock and envy. Her look at the self-important elites of NYC is a fast and easy read that offers a few laughs and many opportunities for readers to marvel at the shallowness of the rich, and not incidentally to feel morally superior to them. Sadly, this may be something that we little people who pay taxes need once in a while.
Okay, I will own up here and say that The Recessionistas is one of those books that totally frustrated me. While the entire premise was interesting - "power couples" with way too much money and very little common sense all have to come to terms with the fact that they may no longer have millions and millions to play with. This premise, as I say, was extremely fascinating to me and while it did a good job of moving the story forward, I just found myself not connecting to any … more
I own a communications consultancy in NYC called MAKE WAVES, which serves nonprofit organizations and foundations. I also hold a Visiting Lecturer position at Milano: The New School for Management & … more
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