By Isabel Wolff
Published: Bantam; June 2010
Synopsis:When vintage clothing expert Phoebe Swift decides to abandon her career as a Sotheby’s auctioneer, she opens London’s Village Vintage, selling only the best recycled designer duds. However, it isn’t long before we discover that the cupcake dresses and alligator clutches that populate her quaint neighborhood shop aren’t Phoebe’s only baggage. Reeling from the death of a close friend and the subsequent collapse of her wedding engagement, Phoebe is in need of a change. She certainly loves the clothing she sells for its history, but it takes a new and profound friendship with the elderly client Mrs. Bell to show Phoebe to care for herself in the same way. Although the novel is sometimes predictable, UK best-seller Wolff keeps us entertained by sending a few courtiers Phoebe’s way and threading intriguing wartime historical fiction into Mrs. Bell’s backstory. Readers with a passion for couture fashion will appreciate (and feel vindicated by!) Wolff’s well-researched and intricate descriptions of beautiful, significant vintage pieces. While the dialogue is occasionally a bit bloated, this book is a smooth read with enough flair and fun for the beach or the pool.
My Take: There was a phase in my life where I read a ton of Isabel Wolff's books. I think it must have been early in her writing career and it was early in my chick-lit reading career. Her books were perfect for my high-school, early college days. 'The Trials of Tiffany Trott' and 'The Making of Minty Malone' were fun, fluffy reads and I devoured them quickly but then, somehow, as a writer she fell of my radar. I don't know if as a Brit she wasn't marketed much to the US market or what but she just wasn't seen by me as well. And then, lo and behold, ten years later, I started seeing this book everywhere and well, it looked a lot more grownup and it looked exactly like something I would want to read and I thought, why did I ever stop reading Isabel Wolff? As I was reading this novel I kept thinking that as well because this book was absolutely wonderful.
First and foremost, if you care absolutely nothing about clothes, then let me say right now, this book will bore the crap out of you but as I really love to shop I didn't have this problem. It wasn't that this book was trite and just about clothes but our heroine here, Phoebe, opens a vintage clothing boutique and the clothes within are discussed in detail and many women come in and find something about themselves in these clothes so if clothes aren't your thing then it might bore you. Because that's the thing, for many women, our memories are tied up in what we wore. We might look back on an old photograph and instantly be brought back to a time and a place because of what we are wearing in that photograph. We know instantly when it must have been taken. Clothes hold a special meaning to us. Wolff, and therefore Phoebe, gets that. Her clientele in her new vintage store get to experience it as well and wow, I wish I could shop there because I think it would be wonderful.
There is obviously a lot more to this story though then just clothes. Phoebe decides to open this store because she needs a change in her life. Previous to this she was working for famed auction house Sotheby's as a vintage clothes auction dealer and living the life with her best friend Emma and her fiance Guy. Then it all falls apart. Her best friend commits suicide and Phoebe feels as if her relationship with Guy is at fault. So she leaves her old life behind and starts anew with the vintage boutique. However, the guilt continues to haunt her.
Through the shop, we come to meet Phoebe's new suitors and how she might learn to get over her previous grief. Phoebe is an easy character to relate to and you really want to root for her and wish for her to get over her pain. She also meets an elderly woman, Mrs. Bell. This friendship proves to be one of the most meaningful of all. With this, I will just tell you that you really should read it because it will have you hooked!
(Thank you to Crazy Book Tours for sending me this book.)