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Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten
Bluebeard's Egg - Margaret Atwood How I saw Sex And The City 2 after reading Bluebeard's Egg

Carrie wonders why she's so unhappy. She's spent her life pursuing excess, and now she's acquired everything on her list. She's a famous writer. She shares a beautiful apartment in the best part of Manhattan with the handsome, successful man she spent years snaring into marriage. She's got a walk-in closet full of expensive designer shoes. She eats out most evenings at the city's finest restaurants, and attends its most exclusive parties. She's close to her three longtime girlfriends, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha. She'd do anything for them, and she knows they'd do anything for her. But she's miserable.

She's invited to a wedding. Her gay best friend has unexpectedly decided to marry Charlotte's gay best friend. She does her best to enjoy it, but she feels out of place. At the reception, a woman comes up to her. She says she is a huge fan. Then she asks Carrie why she has no children. Carrie doesn't know why. She can't explain it even to herself.

At breakfast, Carrie sits with her friends. Charlotte has her baby and her young daughter with her. Samantha counts out vitamin and hormone pills from a huge box. She takes nearly fifty pills every morning.

"I'm tricking my body into thinking it's younger," she says, and explains that the pills will allow her to stay beautiful forever. At that moment, Charlotte's nanny arrives. She's in her early 20s, and radiates health and vitality. She has lovely breasts, and it's obvious that she is not wearing a bra. The men all gaze at her appreciatively, ignoring Samantha.

Samantha is attending a movie première with her ex. Carrie goes shopping with her to buy a dress. The assistant tells Samantha that the dress is too young for her. Samantha puts her down magnificently. At the première, another, younger woman is wearing the same dress. The cameras are all directed towards her. For a moment, Samantha looks helpless and pathetic. Then the younger woman relents. She puts her arm around Samantha, and they pose for the journalists together. Disaster is averted.

Afterwards, at the party, Carrie discovers that her husband has disappeared. She looks around, and eventually finds him talking with a beautiful dark-haired woman played by Penélope Cruz.

"Every night, I go down on my knees and pray that it will stay up," Penélope is saying. Carrie's husband laughs, a real laugh. He notices Carrie and invites her to join them. He says that Penélope is a high-powered banker from Madrid. They have been talking about the stock market, which is constantly on the brink of crashing.

"Your husband is very funny," says Penélope, but without explaining what he said that was so amusing. Carrie suddenly hates the party. She tells her husband that they are leaving. When they get home, they have a small and inconclusive quarrel.

The four friends are invited on an all-expenses-paid trip to Abu Dhabi. They each have their own chauffeur-driven limousine and their own butler. The hotel is absurdly luxurious even by their standards. At breakfast, the table in their private suite contains more cordon bleu food than the whole buffet at a normal hotel. But they only take a little fruit, because they are afraid they will gain weight.

They try their hardest to appreciate the gifts that are being showered on them. They sigh orgasmically as each new delight is revealed, but they know they're faking it. Samantha's hormones have been confiscated by the customs officials. She is pursued by the thought that her body will tip over into menopause. She consults Google, then gorges herself on foods that are claimed to be rich in oestrogen. Charlotte is obsessed with the idea that her husband is sleeping with the nanny, and spends all her time trying to call him.

The women behave badly. Carrie bumps into an old flame at the market. She goes out to dinner with him, wearing her most provocative outfit. She kisses him, then feels guilty about it. Despite Miranda's warnings, Samantha refuses to acknowledge the strict Muslim rules. She is arrested for behaving immorally in public. The women are nearly lynched by an angry mob, and have to leave precipitously for New York.

Carrie arrives home to an empty apartment. She wonders if it's all over. But, after several agonizing hours, her husband turns up. He has a present for her, a ring with an unusual stone.

"Why a black diamond?" asks Carrie.

"Because you're not like anyone else," says Big, but she knows he's not telling her the truth.

She has a sudden glimpse of the future. Samantha's pills have ceased to work, and she is old and ugly. The market has crashed for real. Big has lost his job, and there are broken windows in the gleaming facades of Wall Street. It's ten years away, or maybe five, or maybe next year. She is like everyone else, and her country is like every other country, and this realization is both terrifying and strangely comforting.