Park Avenue princesses go name-dropping

Popular Fiction: Eew! Haven't come across that expression before? In the New York world populated by the Park Avenue princesses…

Popular Fiction: Eew! Haven't come across that expression before? In the New York world populated by the Park Avenue princesses of Bergdorf blondes, it means a little scream of surprise and horror, usually when someone has beaten you to the latest designer label or fashion trend.

A Bergdorf blonde is a rich female New Yorker who was not born blonde but who achieves blondeness through the swankiest and priciest hair salon in town.

This is Plum Sykes's much-hyped first novel, for which she received some £250,000. Sykes is a contributing editor at American Vogue, so she has first-hand knowledge of the world she writes about.

This is the story of a character who refers to herself as Moi, and her department store heiress friend, Julie. Moi and Julie have progressed from ATMs (rich boyfriends) and are now looking for PHs (prospective husbands), which they do by going to an endless round of parties and dressing up a lot.


Moi earns her living as a freelance magazine journalist, who seems to be able to live the high life in New York on roughly one article every two months. She likes blagging rides on private jets, writing wills when her boyfriends dump her, getting her hair/nails/bikini-line/face/make-up done, and shopping.

This book should have been so much fun, a sort of print version of Hello! combined with the best of chick-lit, with lots of inside gossip on the solipsistic and insanely rich of New York. Irony combined with some of the world's best shopping opportunities, written by someone who works for the world's most famous fashion magazine. How could you go wrong?

Sadly, Bergdorf Blondes is as empty-headed as the blondes of the title. This is mostly because the plot is so stupid, and reminiscent of a Barbara Cartland novel in which the English heir in the castle is the improbable glittering PH prize. If there is any plot at all, it's only there as a backdrop for all the name-dropping. If you took out the references to products in Bergdorf Blondes, there wouldn't be much text left.

Both Toby Young's recent non-fiction account of his time working for Vanity Fair (How to Lose Friends and Alienate People) and the co-written novel, The Nanny Diaries, by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, were classics of their genre, excellent social satires on the world of Park Avenue princesses and New York egos. But then, Moi and Julie would probably think satire and irony were two new designer labels. Eew!

• Rosita Boland is a poet and an Irish Times journalist

Rosita Boland

Rosita Boland

Rosita Boland is Senior Features Writer with The Irish Times. She was named NewsBrands Ireland Journalist of the Year for 2018