*** CONTENT WARNING ***
From the author of widely acclaimed novel Sex and the City (inspiring the television series and movies of the same name), Candace Bushnell released One Fifth Avenue in 2008 to mixed reviews.
One Fifth Avenue follows the lives of the residents lucky enough to live in iconic New York building One Fifth Avenue along with those scheming about how they too might come to live in the building. As the narrative begins, we learn of the death of long-time resident and famous New York socialite, Mrs. Houghton. The death, being the catalyst for a series of events that shapes the makeup of the building considerably, acts as an introduction to both the residents of the building as well as the varied relationships they have with each other.
Firstly, we are introduced to the sour and thoroughly unlikeable character of Mindy Gooch, who, although being the building President of One Fifth Avenue, grudgingly lives in the bottom-most apartment with her small family.
“The apartment was an unwieldy shape of boxlike spaces, dead-end rooms, and dark oatches, reflecting the knner psychosis of Jamea and Mindy Gooch and shaping the psychology of their little family. Which could be summed up in one word: dysfunctional.”
Also in the building live Pulitzer-prize winning novelist, Philip Oakland; his elderly aunt and ex gossip-columnist, Enid Merle; and 40-something actress Schiffer Diamond (who coincidentally used to be in a relationship with Philip). Philip hires as his assistant the vivacious, vixen Lola Fabrikant, fresh out of high school and whose life goal is to do as little as possible (but done her way). As well as these residents, we come to know Billy Litchfield who works as an unpaid confidante to members of the upperclass. It is through Billy that reluctant socialite Annalisa Rice and her husband are introduced to the possibility of purchasing the old Houghton penthouse, and the shifts within the iconic building begin.
At the time of release, One Fifth Avenue received mixed reviews. Some suggested that it lacks “artistic flair”, but in my opinion, One Fifth Avenue is a riveting consideration of the many lives and lifestyles circulating through the cityscape of New York.
The novel begins with the 9/11 tragedy in its wake, leaving with it an underlying sense of adjustment in the reaction to the tragedy. As Billy considers, “…the cynicism and shallowness that had beaten through the lifeblood of the city was interpreted as unnecessary cruelty, and it was all at once tacky to wish for anything other than world peace”. I think the novel is not only a fair representation of people adjusting not only to life post 9/11 but a representation of people adjusting to change in general.
It is for this reason that I wouldn’t, as some reviewers have, say that the lack of dynamic “everyday” characters are this novels downfall. Instead of feeling a connection to the characters through our similarities, I felt intrigued by their difference. We consider a number of life events in this novel (from late teen to an elderly perspective). Each character is experiencing change within their lives and each adjusts to change in their own way. While we might not completely relate to or empathise with the characters themselves, there is definitely an air of intrigue through the tableau of New York upper class life. Even the cover is suggestive of this with a building featuring on the cover with cut-out windows – literally as you open the novel you are opening up the building and viewing its inhabitants and their lifestyles.
In terms of the review, I jumped between wanting to rate One Fifth Avenue
as a “Good Weekend Read
” and “Must Read! Get it Now!!
“. I ended up leaning to the latter because I honestly enjoyed this novel more than I would typically enjoy chick-lit fiction (which is admittedly my favourite genre anyway, so that’s quite an accolade!). I found One Fifth Avenue
intriguing, entertaining and highly enjoyable. So my advice to my readers is definitely to grab it now and get into it!
Where Can You Get It?
To buy One Fifth Avenue for a great price and have it shipped straight to your door for free, follow this link to the Book Depository.