Dr Wednesday Martin has her doctorate in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies with a focus in Anthropology. Years ago, Wednesday, her husband, and her two young sons moved to the affluent Upper East Side of Manhattan. She set out to study the wealthy mothers of Manhattan, just as Jane Goodall studied the chimpanzees. Wednesday describes the over-the-top competitive nature of these woman, with the pressure to be thin and perfect stressed throughout the book. Beginning the book as an outsider, she describes herself as the normal girl in the cliched group of mean girls. But Wednesday soon caves to the pressure, as detailed by her purchase of a Birkin bag just to fit in. The author leads us to believe that everyone suffers from the same problems and concerns. Summers in the Hamptons, Botox, potential cheating husbands, and anorexia is the sole existence of all women who live between 59th Street and 96th Street on the East Side of Manhattan. I had such high hopes for the book based on the title and cover. Unfortunately, it greatly disappoints. The same themes are repeated over and over, the protaganist is completely unlikeable and you end up rooting for the mean girls to win. If you want to read a book about the rich women of Manhattan, read The Nanny Diaries and skip this book. (AO)
What happens when a Midwestern social researcher with a background in anthropology moves to Manhattan's most prestigious ZIP code ... and raises her children there? Wednesday Martin's memoir, Primates of Park Avenue, delves into the world of the Upper East Side mother tribe. The summary says: "After marrying a man from the Upper East Side and moving to the neighborhood, Wednesday Martin struggled to fit in. Drawing on her background in anthropology and primatology, she tried looking at her new world through that lens, and suddenly things fell into place. She understood the other mothers' snobbiness at school drop-off when she compared them to olive baboons. Her obsessional quest for a Hermes Birkin handbag made sense when she realised other females wielded them to establish dominance in their troop. And so she analysed tribal migration patterns; display rituals; physical adornment, mutilation, and mating practices; extra-pair copulation; and more. Her conclusions are smart, thought-provoking, and hilariously unexpected. Every city has its Upper East Side, and in Wednesday's memoir, readers everywhere will recognise the strange cultural codes of powerful social hierarchies and the compelling desire to climb them. They will also see that Upper East Side mothers want the same things for their children that all mothers want - safety, happiness, and success - and not even sky-high penthouses and chauffeured SUVs can protect this ecologically released tribe from the universal experiences of anxiety and loss. When Wednesday's life turns upside down, she learns how deep the bonds of female friendship really are."