Book Review: Handbags and Gladrags: A Novel by Maggie Alderson

Book Review: Handbags and Gladrags: A Novel by Maggie Alderson

Format: paperback

First Published: June 7th, 2005

Genres: Contemporary Romance, Chick Lit

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Cross Bridget Jones with The Devil Wears Prada and you have this engaging romantic comedy about love, sex, friendships, and relationships…with a lot of style.

Emily Pointer, stylist for Chic magazine, has a rule about fashion: never wear anything older than six months…unless it’s so old you can pass it off as vintage. And never, ever fall in love, unless it’s for a killer pair of Manolos.

With a witty and biting insider’s take on the fashion world; the crazy circuit of the New York-London-Milan-Paris designer shows, and the most humbling of all experiences, love, Maggie Alderson delivers a poignant, funny novel of success and revenge, friendship and flirtation, passion and Prada that’s as fresh and rejuvenating as an afternoon at Bliss Spa.


The novel opens with an email from Emily’s lover in their secret code planning a rendezvous. It’s not until a few chapters later that we find out Emily is in fact married. And from there on the entire novel became extremely predictable. I don’t think there were any events from that point onwards that even slightly surprised me.

I like Alderson’s writing but there is such a thing as too much. Too much name dropping and too many referrals to designer clothing and other designer items. There’s a part about one third of the way into the novel where Emily is unpacking her suitcase and inventorying her handbag. That was nearly the point where I just couldn’t take any more designer references. Everything from the four pairs of Prada shoes she was hiding from her husband to the Chanel cover she had on her purse pack of tissues was mentioned. The novel would have been half the size if you removed all the shopping and pointless fashion shows that were written about. I understand that as a high fashion magazine stylist you needed some of it but most of it didn’t add anything to the story.

Emily felt rather spineless as a characters. She would blame everyone else  for her problems and took no responsibility for her actions and decisions. So when others made decisions for her and she followed them it was always someone else’s fault when said decision didn’t work for her. I found her extremely shallow and to be one of those people who thought the world of themselves. She was also EXTREMELY hypocritical regarding a lot of things. I can’t get into this too much without spoiling things but Emily had one set of standards for herself and another which she held everyone else to. I felt very little/no character growth for her and that disappointed me slightly. Everything that happened to her was a result of someone else pulling the strings and Emily just following along trying not to rock the boat – with the exception of her little affair with her tanned Australian surfer photographer.

All this seems rather negative. I actually enjoyed the book – more for the supporting characters of Paul and Nelly than anything else. The exotic locations and the glamorous life that Emily lead appealed to me and I enjoyed that part of the novel.


2 out of 5

Purchase book at:

Book Depository / Amazon / FishPond


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