All Is Vanity
Christina Schwarz
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All Is Vanity

3.06 of 5 stars 3.06  ·  rating details  ·  773 ratings  ·  134 reviews
At once darkly comedic and moving, this witty exploration of female friendship, envy, and misguided ambition by the author of the number-one bestseller Drowning Ruth, deliciously satirizes the desire to shine in the world.

In All is Vanity, Margaret and Letty, best friends since childhood and now living on opposite coasts, reach their mid-thirties and begin to chafe at the...more
Published (first published January 1st 2002)
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This is a supremely frustrating book. I was very irritated by the two main characters. To be fair, I did keep reading to see what happened and I think the author (who also wrote Drowning Ruth) did a good job of describing the characters and their day to day struggles. However, I am still disappointed that I devoted any time to it.
…and so is the book. I din't like or identify with any of the characters, who were vapid for different reasons. I kept putting the book down to do other things, never eager to pick it back up, which is very unusual for a vorracious reader who blows through 1+ books a day on vacation. The only redeeming quality was teh anger that i felt at both characters and how they got what they deserved. If this emotional of a reaction to a book is good and registers some sort of connection, I can only say it...more
Rachel Crooks

The characters really bugged me. Margaret didn't seem to care about anything other than being the best at something. It seemed like the only reason she wanted to write a novel was for the acclaim it would give her, and not because she had a message.

You know how they say that the people that annoy you the most are the ones whose faults are most like your own? Throughout the course of this book, I started to see that Margaret grated on me because she was so real (and probably because I identify wi...more
I decided to take a break from historical fiction on my last couple of days on vacation, and I gave this book a try. Reading this one is akin to watching a train wreck—you know what is going to happen, it slightly sickens you, but you can’t really turn away. As the back cover eloquently puts it, “At heart, Schwarz’s novel depicts the narcissistic flair in contemporary society: No one can stand to be average.” The main two characters are best friends from childhood, both of whom express this desi...more
This book was written in 2003 and in some ways, it is a bit dated, but it is very well done. Some reviewers on Amazon say that the characters aren't realistic, but I think the past decade has shown the Letty could very well be a real person whose desire to keep up with the people around her drives her family into bankruptcy. The story is about two best friends. Margaret, who quits her job as a teacher to write a novel and Letty who lives with her husband and 4 kids in LA. Margaret then suffers a...more
At first I found this book amusing, but as the story developed I began to chafe at the self indulgence and self absorption of both Margaret and Letty. Letty's e-mails were entertaining, but the consumerism (is that spelled right) and "keeping up with the Jones" attempts soured me. And as for Margaret, she's lucky she married an understanding and forgiving man... I think the author tried to show us how both characters grew, but it seemed too little, too late.

However, the book kept me reading, bec...more
This is a story about two friends living completely different lives: a stay-at-home mother of four in Los Angeles and an aspiring novelist in New York City. I thought this was going to be a book about women coping with their place in life in their mid-thirties. It is . . . but it is so much more than that. The story takes an unexpected turn and I discovered that it’s really about the pitfalls of consumerism, competitiveness and, you guessed it, vanity. Reading this book was like the proverbial r...more
I don't remember anything about this book! I just wrote in my journal that I had read it, and that it wasn't nearly as good as, "Drowning Ruth" which is a book I really enjoyed by the same author. I read another of her books earlier this year or late last year, and didn't like that one either. I'm not sure I'd read any of her books in the future, although I still recommend, "Drowning Ruth" which was an interesting book.
Funny, entertaining, moody, a little sad, a good summer beach read, witty, interesting -- all of this. A little long, but still.... A woman who wants to write a novel but finds she is in a bit over her head. The best part of the book is the excuses she invents for herself NOT to write. Her best friend inadvertently helps her out and the ending is unexpected and ??? Do not want to give anything away.
A funny book that manages to be sad at the same time, this is a must read for anyone who ever thought of taking a year off from work to write a book. Part of the story focuses on the growing indebtedness of one couple, which may feel uncomfortably close to home by anyone facing a mortgage foreclosure. The story examines overconfidence and friendship in a fresh and insightful way.
Letty and Margaret are childhood friends from California. Letty is a stay-at-home mom who keeps in touch with her best friend through amusing emails detailing her struggles to keep up with the LA "Joneses." Margaret as moved to NYC and has quit her job to write a novel. The story details the rise and fall of each. Funny, satirical, a bit too long.
Reading this book is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. There were some good lessons taught but I did find the stupidity of one family to be a little over-the-top. The saddest part about said stupidity is that I know there are people just like that out there, otherwise Americans would not have just experienced a pretty costly recession.
if you liked the 1st Shopaholic book then you'll probably like this one... just this time it's light reading about grown women with that quirky sense of humour and overblown sense of entitlement. It was a slow read in the beginning but gets better and i actually cared about the two main characters despite their many faults.

Emily gave me this book bc she lost interest. And while it isn't super in-depth and does contain a lot of correspondance in lieu of actual text, it was pretty interesting to me. (A perfect read for at night). I found myself thinking about it and wanting to see what happened. Thanks Emily!
Jan Kellis
Margaret and Lettie have been friends longer than they can remember, and now they're both married, Margaret in NYC with her husband Ted, and Lettie in California with 4 kids and her husband. Margaret, plagued by illusions of grandeur, rashly quits her teaching job to write a novel, but has so much trouble thinking of something to write about, she starts adopting Lettie's struggles as those of her fictional character.

See what happens when Lettie's ever-precarious house of cards starts to collaps...more
I was certainly on the edge of my seat for most of this book. Schwarz keeps you turning pages.
Rebecca Foster
Nancy Pearl (one of my heroes) whetted my appetite for this novel simply by describing it as the story of a writer who turns her best friend’s life into fiction. But All is Vanity has many timely themes, including a classic morality tale of unwise financial choices.

Margaret Snyder quits her job as a high school English teacher in New York City, deciding she’ll take a year out to write a novel. She starts writing about Robert Martin, a Vietnam vet who’s trying to start his life back up again in t...more
Struggling novelist steals from best friends domestic and financial dilemas (and urges her into further dilemas) to provide novel material.

Few excerpts I enjoyed:

Upon being right when authorities disagree: "That's what I recommend, a hearty dose of gleeful sneering."

Despair (realizing she is failing badly) Slowly I began to stagger mechanically in the direction of our apartment, Without meaning to sometimes I stopped, my brain so knotted with inchoate ribbons of thought that there was no room l...more
400 pages.

Exploration of female friendship, envy, and misguided ambition. Satirizes the desire to shime in the world.

Lifelong best friends Margaret and Letty are in their mid-30s. Margaret has just quit her teaching job to write a novel in Manhattan; Letty, her husband, and her four children are enjoying their first taste of worldly success in Los Angeles. Margaret soon discovers that writing is not as easy as it looks, and Letty finds herself financially over her head in the one-upmanship of L...more
I liked the cover art for this book: a crumpled up sheet of paper, stabbed in the middle by a sharp letter-opener.

I liked the name “Schwarz.”

I liked the title: “All is Vanity,” a theme I’m interested in in the novel I’m working on “Harlequin in the Mirror.”

“All is Vanity” lives up to the cover art. The main character, I swear, comes straight out of Jane Austen, and more particularly, “Emma.” Margaret (Emma) has some big ideas, for herself and others. She’s going to write the “Great American No...more
This is the second time I’ve read this book, and both times I devoured it. It’s a dark, satiric, still-relevant commentary on everything from the life of an aspiring writer to suburban parenthood to materialism and narcissism in modern society. I absolutely loved it.

As a side note, props to Schwarz for naming the literary agency "Hope Perdue". Perdu(e) means "lost" in French.
Well written and engaging modern tale of consumerism gone wild. On the surface this is the story of a prospective writer who encourages her muse to make dangerous choices in order to further her writing career. But on a deeper level it is also a story about wanting, and not just the wanting of material things. There is the longing to be "someone", to matter, to make a difference, the longing of parents to give their children a better life with more opportunities. It is also a story about love an...more
The book started out well and was interesting enough, but it seemed to drag for several chapters in the middle. I got bored with Margaret's desire to write, but her inability to keep focus. I felt like that part of the story was dragged out way too long. Once we got through that, however, and things started happening toward the end, it was good. I liked that it does not have a "happy ending". For life is like that. Choices we make have consequences, good or bad, and I sometimes get tired of ever...more
Allison Shifman Chartier
This was a quick read, but ultimately sadder than I anticipated. Part of me thinks it could have just been a short story (it dragged on at points), but then it probably would have had a bit less of an emotional punch.
I can't say that I loved this book....I found the characters extremely flawed. Though I tried hard to hate them, I found myself getting really tangled up in their messes. In my own way, I started to identify with them --worried about finances, worried about jobs, worried about success. Because of that, I wanted the characters to pull themselves together and make better choices. Obviously, that wasn't going to be the case.

There were heavy-handed parts throughout the book, and some obvious symboli...more
Not in the mood to start something brand new, I pulled this off my shelf the other day -- I'd bought and kept it years ago, which meant I really liked it. (Unless it's something special, I donate my books to the library or pass them along.) And wow, it was so much fun. I don't think a lot of the Goodreads reviewers below realized that this was a very mean, very dark comedy, not a realistic slice of life, so yeah, duh, you're not SUPPOSED to like these two women. The sections describing writer's...more
Bo Trapnell
Enjoyable as funny and tragic. Ultimately plays like a Lifetime movie without deep insight
I liked this book but in no way found it wickedly entertaining as USA Today. I found Margaret to be a selfish self centered character who needed some humanity. Even in her apology, she uses a previously unused nickname. Letty is used and abused. But if Margaret is going to abuse Letty, why didn't she do it when she found the camp letters? That is when I thought the story would take that turn. Especially when Schwarzenegger foreshadowed that in the very early part of the novel. Characters very di...more
The costs of intellectual arrogance and rampant insecurity are detailed in this story of a friendship between Margaret and Letty. Margaret believes she has stores of untapped potential genius while Letty believes that her life as SAHM of limited finances is a reflection of her lack of worth. When Margaret takes a year off work to write a novel and Letty's husband takes a high paying job, character traits become serious flaws with major repercussions. The dry wit and self-delusions led to a funny...more
I picked this because I had enjoyed "Drowning Ruth" and because the cover in hardback doesn't LOOK like Chick Lit.

But I bet it will in the paperback edition.

Nonetheless, there is a ton of wit and the stuff about keeping up with the folks in SoCal rang so true...

Messages abound about consumerism and what happens when you don't recognize the value of friendship enough that you sacrifice the friendship in pursuit of your own selfish ends.

Parts of it still crack me up. Was it SUPPOSED to be that fun...more
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