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All Is Vanity
Christina Schwarz
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All Is Vanity

3.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  901 Ratings  ·  146 Reviews
As they reach their mid-thirties, Margaret and Letty, best friends since childhood, begin to chafe at their sense that they are not where they ought to be in life. Margaret, driven and overconfident, decides to rectify this by quitting her job and whipping out a literary tour de force. Frustrated almost immediately, Margaret turns to Letty for support. But as Letty, a stay ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published January 6th 2003 by Headline Review (first published January 1st 2002)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,515)
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Jul 16, 2010 Heather rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 17, 2010 Heather rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
…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

I'm positive that I've read this book before, probably pre-Goodreads. Despite the plot feeling sickeningly familiar, despite being repulsed by these characters (Letty alone was somewhat likeable at the beginning, but quickly devolved into a horrifying caricature of consumerism), despite knowing this was all going to end very, very badly, I couldn't look away.

That's gotta be worth 3 stars.
Rachel Crooks
Jan 20, 2013 Rachel Crooks rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
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
Dec 25, 2012 Allison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 30, 2009 bookczuk rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookcrossing
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
Oct 29, 2007 Betsy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 08, 2015 Jan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Margaret and Letty are two of the most self-delusional characters I have ever met in a novel. Best friends since childhood and now in their 30s, Margaret has rashly quit her teaching job in NYC to write a novel and Letty’s husband, just hired at a fancy art museum in LA, catapults his family into a lifestyle well beyond their means.

From the beginning it’s clear to the reader -- and at some remote level to the two women -- that they are doomed: Margaret in her assurance that the great American no
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.
Jun 06, 2012 Carol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 05, 2008 Marie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 17, 2010 Tiffany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 22, 2010 Evelyn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

Jul 14, 2010 Korie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
I was certainly on the edge of my seat for most of this book. Schwarz keeps you turning pages.
Dec 10, 2014 Jenny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did enjoy this book but would have only given it 3.5 if that was an option. I chose it having loved reading 'Drowning Ruth' a few years ago, but didn't find this as good. I wasn't convinced by Letty's actions and I certainly wasn't convinced by Margaret's - saying why would spoil the story! An interesting read though with some interesting points at its heart - the pressure to have nice material possessions and a good job, and how friendships work. If definitely read more of her books in future ...more
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
Dec 18, 2011 Paula rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 04, 2010 Ruth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Feb 19, 2012 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 13, 2016 Karen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The main character bored me. I mean, I realize that part of the point is that she was boring, but a boring character doesn't have to make for a boring novel. But the entire first half of this novel was boring; so much so that I preferred non-fiction, and finished two other novels after starting and before finishing this one, simply because I could not bring myself to slog through the pages. It started picking up and the last third was quite fascinating, but then it was over.
Jul 09, 2014 Leah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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.
Wendy Lundquist hamlett
The story idea sounded good. The writer in the story kept procrastinating. The author of the book kept putting off really getting around to the story--dwelling on the procrastinating writer. Life imitating art? It's rare that I put a book down and never finish it but I had to with this one. I liked the writing but the story was slow to the point of boring.
Sam Dean
Jul 07, 2015 Sam Dean rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really didn't like this book and found it frustrating to even finish it. I felt like I kept waiting for something to happen and it never did. The ending was also extremely disappointing, it felt as though the author was just trying to finish quickly so she could be done as quick as her readers.
Jan 06, 2016 Valerie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the wit and dry humor in this book, and the back-and-forth story lines. Christina Schwarz is obviously very intelligent and very well read - there are lots of cultural and literary references here, and I may not have got them all. The story could have used a little more momentum and more impact at the climax, but it was a very enjoyable read.
Kristin Dow
May 26, 2015 Kristin Dow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Love this writer, truly talented. Terrific passages and descriptions. Characters can be irritating but are realistic. An interesting and unique profile on female friendships, how they can hurt and hinder each other. Worthwhile read.
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
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