Rachie3879’s #CBR5 Review #16: Scruples by Judith Krantz

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Judith Krantz’s Scruples is the story of Wilhemina “Billy” Winthrop and her journey from a lonely childhood in post-war Boston to incredible success and wealth in marriage and business in Los Angeles in the late 1970s. Along the way Billy befriends Peter “Spider” Elliott and Valentine O’Neill, two incredibly different but talented individuals who help turn Billy’s fashion house Scruples into one of the most successful clothing stores in the country.

The name Judith Krantz was known to me just having been a child of the 1980s, but I’d never really given her writing much thought. I am a regular reader of the Fug Girls’ fashion blog (www.gofugyourself.com) and they kept raving about it so I finally added it to my list. I had some expectations just judging from the girls’ obvious adoration of melodrama (especially in the form of 1980s soap operas). What I read was quite different from what I expected, and if I’m being honest, a little disappointing. Don’t get me wrong the book was ok; it’s just not what I thought I was getting into.

There’s nothing really wrong with Scruples. The writing is on par with other novels of its ilk. There was a surprisingly prolific sprinkling of some salty language that surprised me, but it wasn’t offensive. I’m not sure if this is how men talked in the 70s (constant and frequent use of the word ‘pussy’ for example), or if it’s how Krantz figured she’d cause a stir with her readers. There’s a lot more sex than I assumed there would be – and graphically described! I can see now why girlfriends grinned when I mentioned reading it. There’s quite a few of my acquaintance that picked up their mothers’ copies during their pre-teen years and were quite astonished to learn what really goes on in bed with a man. My mother wasn’t really into Krantz – the sexiest she got was Sidney Sheldon but I can sympathize with the experience and enjoyed thinking about that while reading this.

I didn’t really get attached to any of the characters and I’m not really sure why. I liked most of them well enough, but each one had enough flaws that I stopped really caring what happened to them. Billy is the star of the novel and I really didn’t care for her or care if she succeeded. She’s sort of painted as this strong, defiant woman but she’s far from it. She’s only incredibly wealthy because she married a man many years her senior when she was 21 and inherited his great estate when he died nearly a decade later. She grows up sullen and resentful of perceived exclusion and only gets really happy when she loses a ton of weight during her time living in Paris after high school. This definitely seemed rather dated an idea – that a woman can only be happy if she’s really thin and can’t enjoy food for the rest of her life. She meets and marries a man she considers the love of her life and that may be true, but she can’t stand that she cannot always get her way with him. She’s a 35-yr-old spoiled toddler with little to no impulse control.

Spider and Valentine are better but not much. Spider is photographer cum stylist who loves women so much he can’t stop sleeping with them. Valentine is the daughter of an assistant to a coutourier in Paris, and full of stereotypes. She’s probably the worst-written character in the novel. Her father was an Irish immigrant to the US. Her mother is French. So naturally, she has red hair, a fiery temper and starts ranting in French when she’s angry.

The novel is also just too long. Krantz is overly descriptive, probably in an effort to accurately convey the opulence of Billy’s lifestyle and business. This pushes what could be a quick beach read into a 500+ page extravaganza. Actually that’s all I really needed to say about this. Long story short (too late): It was ok, but what I thought was going to be an entertaining beach read ended up taking me over two weeks to finish.

2 thoughts on “Rachie3879’s #CBR5 Review #16: Scruples by Judith Krantz

  1. I think I’ll stick with my memories of the book from reading it as a teenager. I loved Spider at the time and, as I recall, the love scenes were very eye-opening and educational

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