Because She Can by Bridie Clark

I read some books I enjoyed very much in the past week, including The History of Love by Nicole Krauss and Midwives by Chris Bohjalian (which, oh my goodness, I could not put down, and I will probably write about later) . But I’m going to skip those and talk about Because She Can by Bridie Clark instead.

Because She Can
is basically The Devil Wears Prada in the book publishing world. Here is what’s likely to be a hugely unpopular opinion: I vastly preferred Because She Can to The Devil Wears Prada, which I read in 2003. Here are my reasons why.

1. Claire was a more sympathetic main character than Andrea (did she go by Andy? I can’t remember). When reading The Devil Wears Prada, I thought Andrea came across as incredibly smug and judgmental, probably because Lauren Weisberger (allegedly) based the book and the character on her own experiences at Vogue. Bridie Clark did work for an alleged she-devil boss in the publishing industry, but the book did not feel as personal, and therefore Claire felt less judgmental.

2. Claire already worked in the book publishing world, so, even though she looked down on the trash that Vivan Grant chose to publish, there was less distance between the character and the world of the book. Andrea wanted to work for a newspaper or The New Yorker or something, and she clearly thought that Runway was beneath her. (See reason number one, and this leads into reason number three . . . )

3. In addition, Claire knew . . . if not exactly what she was getting into, she at least had somewhat of an idea of what she was getting into. She chose to take a calculated risk that working for a she-devil like Vivian Grant would help her in the long run. She decided that a year with Vivian Grant would help progress her career faster than waiting around for someone to pay attention to her at her current job. The Devil Wears Prada movie made more of Andrea wanting to work at Runway for a year to get it on her resume, but I don’t remember Andrea in the book having such a specific plan. I could be wrong about that. Regardless, the idea that Claire knew what she was getting into and that she made the decision to go there (not just the decision to stay, as Andrea did) for the sake of her career made the abuse that she took more palatable to me. I never felt as if Claire was in danger of being sucked into the world or losing who she was. She got busy and overwhelmed by the work, but, in regards to work, she knew who she was and what she wanted the entire time.

4. Because She Can was more deliberately over the top (similar to Ugly Betty in that way) and derived much of its humor from that. The book opens at Claire’s wedding, and her boss barges in before the ceremony and demands to talk to her about a few things. And Claire says she’ll talk to her for five minutes! That’s so intentionally unrealistic that it was easier for me to take than The Devil Wears Prada. Vivian’s demands and her whole personality were more humorous because of this. She also asked Claire to do things that were related to her job of book publishing rather than, you know, finding copies of the latest Harry Potter manuscript or something. I know Andrea was a personal assistant and that that job description covers many things, but I got tired of Andrea being asked to do things that were, frankly, impossible. Claire was given too much work, too many books, but at least there were reasons for it (Vivian fired or ran off the people who had been in charge of those books in the past) and there were goals behind it (best-sellers, not bratty children).

5. All of this together means that I never during the book thought, “Why don’t you just QUIT AND PUT US ALL OUT OF OUR MISERY!!!” I didn’t get so stressed out while reading it. It was funny and silly and I breezed through it yesterday without wanting to throw it against the wall.

6. The boyfriend in this book was really busy with his own job, so I felt less stressed out about her personal relationships as well. That was huge in regards to my satisfaction level, I think. There were relationship stressors, but they were of a different sort that, again, I found more palatable.

7. It’s possible that, on a more personal note, I found the book publishing world more interesting than the magazine publishing world. I thought I should say that, in the interest of full disclosure.

Is this book a classic? No, it is not. But I did enjoy it, and if you’re looking for a light read, you could probably do worse. If you liked The Devil Wears Prada, you will probably like this one, too. The plot is predictable and the love triangle is obvious, but it was exactly what I wanted – a nice, light chick lit book to read in between some heavier fare. For what it was, I enjoyed it very much.

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