The author of Slave to Fashion (2001) and Slave to Love (2004) takes a look at contemporary marriage and parenthood.
Celeste and Sean have a baby named Harry and a marriage that none of their friends understand. Gorgeous, sharp-tongued Celeste doesn’t just work in fashion: She lives fashion. Charmingly pedantic Sean is interested in Kant, not couture. By the time this story begins, it’s beginning to look like others’ skepticism may be justified. Sean is growing weary of his role as stay-at-home dad, and he’s tempted by a brassy, voluptuous mom in Harry’s play group. Disturbed by the months-long lack of sex in her marriage, Celeste finds that she’s attracted to the luscious Ludo Moss. She also discovers Sean’s journal, which contains a few provocative mentions of Uma and some fairly unflattering sketches of his wife. When Celeste starts keeping a journal herself, it begins as a rebuttal to Sean’s occasionally exaggerated accounts of their life together, but it evolves into a means of self-examination. The novel is composed of alternating chapters from each spouse’s diary. Campbell does an exemplary job of creating distinct voices for her two protagonists. Sean is witty and self-deprecating, but also self-serving. His jokes at his own expense stem not so much from humility as from a desire to make himself sympathetic. But it’s hard to fault him for it since the tactic works so well—it even lands him a book deal and a gig as a sad-sack essayist on a women’s radio show. Celeste’s more caustic, less effusive style provides a bracing complement to Sean’s gift for gab. It’s all very funny, but Campbell does a commendable job with the serious bits, too, and she offers a convincing depiction of marital ennui, infidelity and reconciliation. When Sean and Celeste renew their commitment to each other and their family, they do so in a clear-eyed, unsentimental fashion—and the ending is happy without being treacly.
Smart, emotionally honest entertainment.