A young woman gets what seems to be once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity, only to discover that her boss is a demanding, untenable disaster. The story, particularly within the glamorous confines of fashion and Hollywood, has been told before — most notably on page and screen in The Devil Wears Prada. Now Rosie Nixon, the editor in chief of the U.K. celeb magazine Hello!, takes her stab at the tale with her debut novel, The Stylist.
Amber Green isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life, but when a serendipitous encounter with celebrity stylist Mona Armstrong and a misinterpreted mishap land her an opportunity to be Mona’s assistant during awards season, she jumps at the chance to get a glimpse of the glitz and glamour of Hollywood living. All too soon, she learns that Mona has heaps more baggage than the heavy suitcases full of designer gowns she totes around — and that celebrities aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
The book is a sparkling peek inside the world of Hollywood stylists and the bonkers maneuverings it takes to get a star onto the best-dressed lists. Amber is a funny, neurotic, relatable heroine, with whom readers will instantly want to share a glass of fizz (Champagne for us Americans). As Amber discovers the truth about Mona’s rapidly unraveling lifestlye, she also starts to pull at the loose threads of her own desires, using her quick thinking and empathetic nature to ultimately figure out how to get what she really wants out of life. Nixon also provides a winning love interest in cameraman Rob, whose intentions remain always slightly out of focus until the book’s tidy conclusion.
As a longtime entertainment journalist, Nixon has an insider’s view of awards season and what makes Hollywood tick. The book is packed with tidbits gleaned from her experiences among the rich and famous — whether it’s glamorous details, like the outlandishly expensive decorations at a Golden Globes after-party, or the seedy ones, like Amber’s icky encounter with a parasitic aspiring actor.
And yet, Nixon’s disdain for Hollywood — her willingness to satirize, or take the gilded edge off the lily, as it were — feels hollow. We’ve seen this story, this warning that celebrities have ludicrous expectations, that all that glitters is not gold in Hollywood, so many times that Nixon’s merry takes on off-the-wall actresses and their dirty laundry seems stale rather than provocative. When the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements are sweeping through the entertainment industry and revealing the true depths of the bad behavior there, it feels paltry to offer up a story that trades on insider knowledge of over-the-top soirées and fickle fashion choices.
Amber’s story is one worth telling: It’s a frothy romp that has everything from stunning Hollywood vistas to heartwarming moments of friendship to swoony romance. But in taking her own experiences to heart and laying bare the well-tread dark side of Hollywood, Nixon spears celebrity with just a smidge too much glee. As a result, the book reads more like tawdry gossip than a fun frolic with a willingness to remove the rose-colored glasses. The book is like a bottle of Champagne that’s been open for several days: fizzy at moments, but ultimately a bit flat. B-