Friday, May 14, 2010

A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff

Book description:
Every dress has a history. And so does every woman.

Her friends are stunned when Phoebe Swift abruptly leaves a plum job at the prestigious Sotheby’s auction house to open her own vintage clothing shop in London—but to Phoebe, it’s the fulfillment of a dream. In the sunlight-flooded interior of Village Vintage, surrounded by Yves Saint Laurent silk scarves, Vivienne Westwood bustle skirts, cupcake dresses, and satin gowns, Phoebe hopes to make her store the hot new place to shop, even as she deals with two ardent suitors, her increasingly difficult mother, and a secret from her past that casts a shadow over her new venture.

For Phoebe, each vintage garment carries its own precious history. Digging for finds in attics and wardrobes, Phoebe is rewarded whenever she finds something truly unique, for she knows that when you buy a piece of vintage clothing, you’re not just buying fabric and thread—you’re buying a piece of someone’s past. But one particular article of clothing will soon unexpectedly change her life.

Thérèse Bell, an elderly Frenchwoman, has an impressive clothing collection. But among the array of smart suits and couture gowns, Phoebe finds a child’s sky-blue coat—an item with which Bell is stubbornly reluctant to part. As the two women become friends, Phoebe will learn the tale of that little blue coat. And she will discover an astonishing connection between herself and Thérèse Bell—one that will help her heal the pain of her own past and allow her to love again.

This well-written and moving book tells the story of the power of love and of friendship. Phoebe, struggling to overcome the loss of her best friend (and subsequently her fiance) uproots herself from the life she has known and follows her heart to start a business focused on her passion for vintage clothes. Therese is approaching the end of her life, and seeks to pass along her clothes and her stories, and to alleviate her guilt for an error committed long ago. These two stories intertwine in ways that are both surprising and emotionally compelling.

Even though I am not much of a clothes person myself, it was impossible not to be drawn into Phoebe's passion for vintage clothing and the glimpses it provides into bygone eras. The clothes are as much a character as anyone in the novel, and I was drawn to the impact the dresses had on the women who fell in love with them. As Phoebe and Therese draw closer to resolution of their individual problems, it is there friendship that allows them to face the difficult truths in their pasts and forgive themselves for the mistakes that harmed their beloved friends. This book was an excellent read, one that I recommend sharing with your friends and family.

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