||[Sep. 17th, 2009|11:05 am]
International Bon Vivant and Raconteur
"So...what's the craziest thing you've ever done for money?" That's a question I've long wanted to ask of strangers on the street, and still may one day for a book project. I'm sure most of the replies would involve wacky jobs or having to rub a grandmother's feet in order to secure a loan.
But if people are being honest, at least some of the answers will involve sex.
Anna David's charming, breezy novel Bought approaches this delicate subject matter in fictional form, though it's based on a true-to-life article David began writing some time before. In the novel, red-carpet celebrity interviewer Emma Swanson, transparently David's alter ego, stumbles across the story of a lifetime--the new prostitution. Instead of exchanging sex for money, this new breed of women essentially sleep with wealthy, powerful (and often married) men in exchange for gifts. In other words, sleep with a guy and suddenly you've got a closetful of thousand-dollar Chanel pocketbooks, or expensive boots, or your rent is paid for the next six months. Emma befriends a woman who is the veritable queen of this new kind of prostitution, Jessica, and tags along with her for research for her article. As their friendship grows and the line between the personal and the professional is crossed, Emma finds herself living a more dangerous lifestyle of partying and cocaine until she very nearly becomes a prostitute herself in order to land a too-good-to-be-true magazine editor position.
Anna David is an accomplished writer whose prose is smooth and who has a great eye for detail, especially when it comes to L.A. high society. The story is fun and fast--a quick read at less than 300 pages--but what it's missing is emotional resonance. It could have used some deeper emotions that would pull the reader further into the characters, but instead David sticks to the surface, skimming like a tossed pebble instead of sinking down to where the real meat of the matter is. Still, it's a very enjoyable novel, even if it's something of a trifle in the end.
Definitely recommended for airplane flights, long bus rides and beach reads, but if you're looking for something deep or transformative you might want to hold off on this one until next summer's beach season.