Julie and Julia, meet Anna and Helen. Fresh after another disappointment in love, single, 30-something writer Anna David happens to see a copy of Helen Gurley Brown’s ’60s classic Sex and the Single Girl at a bookstore in New York City. As she peruses the pages for an hour at the store, David finds herself feeling pleasantly surprised and impressed by Gurley Brown’s personal story and by her suggestions for improving a single woman’s life. Buying the book and taking it home lifts her mood, and as she reads more about the author and reflects on her own experiences, David feels “inspired to confront the shame I’ve felt about my single status and do something about it.”
Thus begins a year of systematically following Helen’s advice (David always refers to her by her first name; she feels that close to her). David works on ways to make herself a more fascinating single girl, with skills and style. She takes to heart Helen’s counsel to learn to cook, to decorate her apartment and to dress with flair appropriate for her age, often enlisting friends and professionals to help her achieve these goals. At the same time, she decides to be more open in where she looks for men, signing up for Match.com and trying a speed-dating service, for instance.
These kinds of memoirs can easily veer into obnoxious territory, but David generally manages to stay away from annoying her readers with her self-examination. In fact, she entertains and inspires a little with her own story and willingness to try new things. She doesn’t end up finding the perfect guy by the end of the book (this isn’t Eat, Pray, Love), but she does feel more positive about life and about who she is. Interestingly enough, much like in Julie & Julia, she never gets any response from her queries to Helen Gurley Brown, still very much alive and going in to her office to work. Overall, the book is fun and contains useful advice for anyone, single or married with four kids.
Rated: High, for five uses of strong language and some other mild and moderate language, and a few pages of sexual content. It’s not necessarily “high” in details, but the length and feel of it pushes it into high territory.