Review

One Fifth Avenue

by Candace Bushnell

The pursuit of money and the extravagances it can buy, and what
it is like to live when money is no object, is the fascinating
social commentary written by one of New York’s premier
21st-century novelists, Candace Bushnell. Those who possess
old money and new money are striving for status,
art, publicity and New York real estate.

The reader is seduced by New York City and the fantasy that if
you can make it in the Big Apple, you can make it anywhere. Money,
odd couple relationships and age are recurring themes with Carrie
Bradshaw-style commentary by Bushnell: “Perhaps too much
money was like too much sex. It crossed the line and became
pornographic.”

Bushnell’s fifth novel shines the spotlight on an eclectic
group of people who currently live at or who are scheming to live
at One Fifth Avenue. Bushnell’s characters are socialites,
writers, gossip columnists, actresses and hedge-fund managers, and
for contrast she has thrown in Mindy Gooch, who writes a blog
titled “The Joys of Not Having It All.” She is
the outsider looking in, even though she resides at One Fifth.

When the “queen of society” Louise Houghton dies
leaving her “legendary collection of jewelry,”
including the mysteriously stolen Cross of Bloody Mary and her
historical penthouse at One Fifth with a domed ballroom and a
360-degree view of Manhattan, the race to see who can acquire the
coveted real estate first begins.

The idea that money seduces us and creates aspiring
social-climbing whores and that “Forty million isn’t
real money. A hundred million is getting there” paints a
picture of our society that is alarming but possibly true. Bushnell
concludes that the young are afraid to grow up to be the
“establishment” --- that is, until money talks. There
is power in having limitless amounts of money, but she also writes
characters like Annalisa Rice who are unhappy, despite their
billions and Chopard watches.

Philip Oakland grew up at One Fifth. He has won a Pulitzer Prize
and an Oscar, and is writing screenplays for Hollywood, yet he is
restless, out of touch and easily seduced by the much younger Lola,
who is seeking to marry into money. Lola’s character is the
energy in this novel. She has the “unbridled confidence of
youth,” a keen sense of status and the power to use sexual
temptation to elevate her social status. Each of her conquests is a
writer, and her sexcapades are the only sex here. Romance is absent
in ONE FIFTH AVENUE, but surprisingly the older women are
ultimately winners over the younger ones. Age, wisdom and money
still have clout, but sex without romance is like marriage, and
Bushnell’s readers are used to fantasy and lovers who excite
us.

If you are looking for another SEX AND THE CITY with rich
relationships between female friends, lovers and sexy shoes, or
another LIPSTICK JUNGLE, with women working and sleeping their way
to the top, you will not find that in this latest Bushnell effort.
The author has matured, and in many places I felt she was writing
her own experiences about million-dollar book advances, two-week
book tours, fleeting fame and growing older in a city that requires
mega money to surpass your peers in the “playground of New
York society.”

ONE FIFTH characters all share a love for New York and lead
glamorous lives full of photo shoots, private dinners, ad
campaigns, red carpet events, society photos, fashion and gossip.
Enid Merle is a gossip columnist living at One Fifth who harbors
the secrets of the bastion of the wealthy. Actress Schiffer Diamond
returns to New York after a Hollywood divorce and pursues former
lover Philip Oakland.

To put the characters’ silver-lined lives into
perspective, one of the most memorable conversations in this book
is between Schiffer Diamond and society escort Billy Litchfield:
“He keeps turning up like a bad penny, doesn’t
he?” “More like a million-dollar bill,” Billy
said. Now this is the Bushnell we have come to know and love. One
never knows when their very own “million-dollar” lover
will jet them away to Fifth Avenue for life’s greatest
indulgences. Don’t forget --- Champagne, Chopard and Chanel
are a girl’s best friends!

Reviewed by Hillary Wagy on January 13, 2011

One Fifth Avenue
by Candace Bushnell

  • Publication Date: June 2, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Voice
  • ISBN-10: 1401341055
  • ISBN-13: 9781401341053