When I first made my date to have lunch with Carole Radziwill some time ago, I was looking forward to talking to her about her first novel, The Widow’s Guide to Sex & Dating (Henry Holt) as well as her astonishing best-selling memoir, What Remains, in which she chronicled the aftermath of her husband’s death in a deep, affecting and intricately personal way. It was fascinating to me to see that she had approached the earth-shattering event of losing her husband, Anthony Radziwill, from two diametrically different perspectives and chosen to write about young widowhood twice. While her memoir came first, published six years ago, Carole told me the novel was ten years in the making. “It started percolating around that time, but I wasn’t in that state of mind. The novel was written in a much more whimsical state of mind.” But she made headlines in the tabloids this morning for another reason — a fellow castmate of The Real Housewives of New York City, Aviva Drescher, wrongly accused her of hiring a ghostwriter for What Remains, detonating the requisite explosion (this one dubbed “Bookgate”) that fuels the Bravo squawkfest, which Andy Cohen clearly lives for.
Here’s a primer on “Bookgate.” If you’re not a regular viewer, try to follow along: When Carole joined the show last season, Aviva could not have been more fawning, going so far as to tell her that What Remains inspired her to look at her own life differently. Fast forward a few episodes and this season, Aviva and Carole have become full-fledged enemies (the women didn’t know each other before the show), mainly because Carole deals in what is actually going on, while Aviva seems to be hell-bent in doing whatever it takes to stay relevant on Housewives. In this case, Aviva first asked Carole to vet a ghostwriter she was going to use on her book (and now denies she even used one) and then somehow turned the whole thing around by telling the other women on the show that “word on the street” was that Carole used a ghostwriter for What Remains. Said Carole: “There’s always one housewife on every show that’s completely contrived and that’s her. Everything she does, she does for the show.” And then of the subsequent blow-up: “If I’ve helped Aviva sell books, I’m sure my thank you note is in the mail. This is supposed to be a reality show, so I’m interjecting some reality here. I’m honest about my life.” Got it?
Honestly, it was a bit hard to reconcile the woman sitting across from me from the one who is throwing down on Bravo and even braving the dating pool on camera. Carole is funny, smart and, dare I say, low-key. How the heck did she wind up on Real Housewives? “I’d just finished Widow’s Guide and Andy asked me,” she told me. Carole, it turns out, is the only cast member who had a real friendship with the Bravo executive prior to the show. “It was completely out of my comfort zone and I thought it might raise my platform and maybe help me sell a few books.”
And indeed it has. Last season, Carole’s publisher had to go back and rush to print 50,000 more copies of What Remains when her appearance on Housewives show sent fans to the Internet looking for the book that was originally published six years ago. Its reappearance on The New York Times‘ best seller list was a very pleasant surprise. “I’d like to say it was planned, but it just happened,” said Carole. Widow’s Guide came out last month and according to Henry Holt senior publicist Leslie Brandon, there’s been a steady increase in the number of books sold over the past few weeks. Due in part, no doubt, to the exposure Bravo offers. This year’s season will run a record 22 episodes and is being touted internally, said Carole, as the best of the entire franchise. A win-win for all concerned, no?