Scruples (novel)

Scruples is a 1978 novel by Judith Krantz. The novel details the life story of protagonist Wilhelmina Hunnewell Winthrop as she goes from being a fat "poor relation" of an aristocratic Boston Brahman family to a thin, stylish woman who is left a vast fortune by the death of her elderly husband.

As a child, Wilhelmina is nick-named "Honey," a deerivative of her middle name. In her infancy, her mother dies and she is raised by her distant father. She grows up isolated from her family and, with the help of the house staff, turns to food for confort. After high school, she is given $10,000 from a maiden Aunt who begs her to spend it foolishly while she is still young. As a last ditch effort to "find herself," Honey she goes to Paris. There she begins a transformation of both body and soul; first changing her name to Billy, then losing weight, and gaining Parisian style under the guidance of the French family that she lives with. It is there she is introduced to Edouard; a relation to the family. It is her first intimate love affair, but after Edouard discovers that Billy has no money, he shows his true colors and breaks off the relationship.

Billy returns early to America after her failed love affair to a stunned Boston. Feeling "not in her skin," she moves to New York to attend secretarial school. She meets Jessica, who will teach her about men, but will also become her closest friend. During school, Billy embarks on a whirl-wind adventure of sexual awakening. Billy graduates and gets a job for Ikehorn Enterprises and during a business meeting in Barbados, she sleeps with and subsequently marries the CEO, Ellis, whom happens to be much older. The next period of her life seems to be the happiest as she and Ellis live a glamorous life filled with parties, homes all over the world, and regular appearances on the Best Dressed List. Ellis eventually has a stroke and Billy moves them from Manhattan to Bel Air for the improved climate.

Billy lives as a recluse in their enormous house, and she looks aimlessly for purpose in her life, eventually adopting a compulsion to shop in Beverly Hills. Seven years after Ellis' stroke, he dies, leaving Billy still an enormous fortune, but also an enormous amount of guilt. Billy realizes that she will never find "what she is looking for," so she decides to open a luxury boutique called "Scruples." She hires Valentine O'Neil to make original couture on site as well as Spider Elliot, who appoints himself the Style Director and arbitrator of elegance.

The story develops around Billy's second marriage to Vito Orsini, a film producer, and then around the Oscars. The store makes many of the outfits for the Oscars and a subplot revolves around Billy's new friend Dolly Moon, a flamboyant supporting actress in Vito's current film project, "Mirrors". This plot develops as Price Waterhouse is burglarized so that it becomes known that "Mirrors" will win the Oscar for Best Picture. The story ends at the Oscars with Billy knowing that their film will win, as she contemplates her life while wearing a famous pair of ear rings given to her by her first husband.

A direct sequel, "Scruples Two", was published in 1992.


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