Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl (Nancy Chan Novels) Paperback – 4 Jul 2005
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‘Bridget Jones with attitude’ Guardian
‘Chock-full of bad-girl secrets… tantalizing’ Cosmopolitan
‘Unexpectedly wise, observant and best of all – fun’ Los Angeles Times
‘A new perspective on the world's oldest profession’ Honey
From the Author
Who is Nancy Chan?
Ever since Nancy Chan's diary began running in Salon.com, I've been asked by readers and relatives, by prospective and former boyfriends: "Are you Nancy Chan? How much of Nancy is really you?"
I'm unable to give a completely straight answer because, well, I'm like Nancy in some ways. Fact and fiction are often blurred in Nancy's life, and in mine. Like Nancy, I ran away from home during my teens, and I know what it's like to take pride in a job while keeping it a secret.
When the original series ended -- with Matt slyly inserting himself into Nancy's apartment to deliver a surprise marriage proposal -- I received hundreds of e-mails from readers wanting to know how Nancy would handle being a full-fledged fiancée: Could a girl like Nancy really give it all up for a guy when she's at the top of her career as a call girl? How big was that engagement ring, anyway?
My call-girl readers were especially intrigued. Contrary to the latest stereotype (that prostitution is just "sex work"), selling sex is much more than a job. Having sex for money can become a way of relating to men -- and enjoying men -- that competes with your romantic life. Successful hookers are sharp-witted, hardheaded and hardworking but many are also diehard romantics. We want our emotional fantasies to come true, perhaps because we spend so much time fulfilling other people's fantasies.
When you run your own business, you are married to your job. When this job is also a secret from your boyfriend, a proposal of marriage may represent the fulfillment of a fantasy -- but it brings real-life complications, as Nancy Chan could tell you.
As to whether I am currently guilty of leading a double life, planning to marry a guy like Matt, secretly endangered by scandal, or coming out with a sequel to the current novel, I will now resort to misquoting D.H. Lawrence: "Never trust the author. Trust the tale." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
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That said, knowing that the book had a predominantly pink cover with a drawing of a woman in her panties prominent on it did make me wonder what kinds of looks I'd get from the other passengers on the Tube. Even more so having got some sideways glances when I was reading nothing more risqué than "Bridget Jones's Diary".
Nancy leads something of a double life. In one life, she is a call girl in New York, who seems to have very few friends or acquaintances who she hasn't met through her work. In the other, she is a supposedly respectable fiancée to Matt and, as far as he and his sisters are concerned, works in a far more respectable job.
"Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl" is four months in Nancy's life. She leads us through her working days and nights and the time she spends with Matt and her friends. We get to find out how she juggles both sides of her existence and the trials she faces keeping them apart. We hear her conversations at work, at the gym and with her therapist.
As with "Belle De Jour", this is written in a diary format and, again similar to that book, some of the entries are pretty long. Unlike that, however, this does not deviate from that format. Indeed, there is no variation of style here and the only real break from the present is the small bit of back story where Nancy explains how she first became a call girl and what she did before she became a call girl in Manhattan.
Before I had even started reading the story, I had my misgivings. With the previous books I'd read on the subject, the covers were a little more discreet, whereas this shouts out to everyone what you're reading with the colour scheme and the cover picture. The way the book is divided into chapters and the slightly corny titles some of them have been given suggests this isn't taking itself as seriously as "Belle De Jour" did and the way the type on some of the pages is shaped like a woman's body suggests it's trying a little too hard to impress.
Sadly, it does seem that this book is a victory of style over substance. Although it's worth noting that this book is marketed as a work of fiction, whereas both "Chicken" and "Belle De Jour" claimed to be true stories, it is really only the subject matter than links the three books. "Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl" has none of the gritty realism and the shocking impact of those earlier books. It's really a watered down version of the genre, perhaps falling part way between "Belle De Jour" and "Bridget Jones's Diary".
Worst of all is the ending of the book. Having built up to an unresolved situation, Quan commits the cardinal sin of dodging the issue at the end. Had you actually succeeded in building up a relationship with Nancy through these pages, this would be a huge let down. Fortunately, I was never that involved in the story, so I didn't find it much more than a disappointment, albeit a pretty massive one.
This is a book for someone who enjoyed "Bridget Jones's Diary" and wants something with a slight edge to it. This would also be suitable reading for someone who was disgusted or shocked by "Belle De Jour". I saw a lady on a train recently reading that book with an expression on her face that covered both shock and disgust. She would probably have felt more at home with this book. For me, personally, having loved the on the edge feel of "Belle De Jour", this felt horribly watered down and not quite real.
I suspect that anyone reading this as their first foray into the subject may not be as disappointed as I was. The stories of call girls and the like seem to be coming more into the mainstream than ever before, with "Belle De Jour" seemingly leading the way. Sadly, this book proves that bandwagon jumping isn't always (or, indeed, often) a good thing and that Quan isn't fit to lace Belle De Jour's knee high boots.
This review may also appear under my name at any or all of www.ciao.co.uk, www.thebookbag.co.uk, www.goodreads.com, www.amazon.co.uk and www.dooyoo.co.uk
Overall the book was an entertaining read and went some way to making me question any stereotypes I might have had about 'working girls'. It was gritty without being filth, had good pace and made me laugh in places.
Unfortunately all the good work Quan had done in creating likeable and/or believable charachters whose lives are intertwined (in ways which even the charachters don't know) is wasted with the sudden ending in which few of the subplots are brought to a conclusion.
On balance I decided on four stars because three seemed a bit harsh for a book that kept me entertained and turning pages for a few well spent hours.
As for the end, it was as if the author ran out of time in a high school English exam. A real train wreck of an ending-completely unsatisfying.
I hate to say that on the whole, this is a poor book, although it's marginally better than reading the back of your ticket when you're bored on the bus.
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