Book Review: The Carrie Diaries
Candace Bushnell’s teen debut novel has a strong, gripping quality about it.
Apart from the general readers, two kinds of readers in India would be specifically interested and curious about Candace Bushnell’s, ‘The Carrie Diaries’ (Publisher: HarperCollins). First, those interested in the background of one of the most iconic characters of our times - Carrie Bradshaw of ‘Sex and the City’ fame and second, teenagers in metropolitan cities who face the same crises as the characters – Carrie, Lali, The Mouse, Maggie, Walt, Peter, Dorrit etc.
Bushnell’s teen debut novel is set in the 1980s and has a strong, gripping quality about it.
Most of the readers know Caroline `Carrie` Bradshaw as the fictional narrator and lead character of the HBO sitcom/drama ‘Sex and the City’, played by actress Sarah Jessica Parker. But till now, Candace Bushnell had not written much about the teen-years of the semi-autobiographical character. Evidently, the writer’s initials being the same as her character is more than ‘merely co-incidental’.
Carrie Bradshaw, who has a trying time during her emotionally charged senior year at a small town school in the US, initially appears to be just another fun-loving teenager but later what sets her apart from the crowd is her dream – the dream of becoming a writer. Just like the author - Candace Bushnell, who published the book ‘Sex and the City’ based on her own columns in the New York Observer - Carrie aspires to be an acclaimed writer.
The novel shows a bunch of teenagers getting comfortable with their sexuality, dealing with heartbreaks, enjoying wild party nights, engaging in mean quarrels and at the same time unsure about their future. It begins with Carrie Bradshaw being happy in her circle of friends which includes Lali, Maggie, Walt and The Mouse aka Roberta. She is witty, dependable and a lady in her own way (although her late mother, who was a perfect lady, would not have approved of her ways).
While her other friends are busy exploring their sexuality, Carrie secretly nurtures the dream of becoming a writer. She has written a few things but is too afraid and embarrassed to show it to someone. And then, Sebastian Kydd happens to her! Sebastian is the new student in her school and all the girls seem to be in love with him, including the most beautiful girl in the school, Donna LaDonna. Donna is also a cheerleader – which means she is the ‘Queen Bee’ of the school. And Sebastian is nothing short of a Greek God, with perfect features and a killer attitude.
Life takes a fairy-tale turn for Carrie, when Sebastian dumps Donna for her. Carrie, whose looks are nothing as compared to Donna, is on cloud nine. Like most of the teenagers, Carrie thinks it is love at first sight and to her surprise, Sebastian chooses her over all the eager beauties in school.
But something in Carrie makes her feel that what is happening is not what she really wants. She finds herself giving in too much to Sebastian’s demands. However, she refuses to lose her virginity to him. After going through a lot of teenage tussle, she comes across a terrible secret.
Meanwhile, her old-fashioned father introduces her to George – the perfect husband material. George is clearly more suited for her, he takes interest in her writing vocation, stands by her at all times but the problem is she is not attracted to him.
Carrie has the last laugh when she repays her betrayer in the most fitting way by adopting a pseudonym ‘Pinky Weatherton’ and attacking her enemies – the jerks and the snobs, in the school journal. She also gets accepted for a prestigious writing course in New York and in a university towards the end of the novel. The novel ends up with Carrie landing in New York and calling up Samantha Jones (played by Kim Cattrall in ‘Sex and the City’) for help…
Surely, a sequel to the novel is up its way.
The other characters in the novel are well-drawn. Carrie’s friend Maggie comes across as an emotionally charged teenager, suffering nervous breakdowns after every crisis. The Mouse is the most wise and matured of the lot. Lali is the typical example of those who pose as best-friends but are secretly jealous of what you have. Walt is likeable for his dry humour and the fact that he openly declares he is gay. Carrie’s sister Dorrit represents the problem-child in us during our early-teens while Peter and Sebastian are the perfect example of lousy guys, who have a wonderful façade but are dilapidated from within.
‘The Carrie’s Diaries’ have wonderful observations permeated with wit and humour. A teenager’s dilemma comes out strongly in the lines: “I should have said no, or at least allowed myself to be convinced, because what girl agrees to go on a date on a spur of the moment like that? It sets a bad precedent, makes the guy think he can see you whenever he wants, treat you however he wants. But I didn’t have it in me to refuse.”
The teenage moments in the book are startling and take you back in time. “I go into the bathroom to examine my face. I have a sudden desire to radically alter my experience. May be I should dye my hair pink and blue like Dorrit’s. Or turn it into a pixie cut. Or bleach it white blond.”
The book vaguely reminds you of Archie comics, teen films and soaps but there is something dignified about it much like the lead character - Carrie.
Candace Bushnell has a charming way of putting things which transforms a banal incident into an exciting and dramatic event. The appeal of the book would have enhanced manifold had there been more realism in it instead of candy-floss sequences.
Surely, Carrie Bradshaw of teen years is as much loveable as the grown-up beauty.