Thursday, September 30, 2010

Recommended read: A Vintage Affair

A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff
Find it in the catalog!

Phoebe Swift opens her own vintage clothing shop, Village Vintage, in London after years working at Sotheby's auction house. She loves vintage clothes not only because of their unique designs but because of the stories she imagines behind each piece. Throughout the book we learn the stories of the people buying the clothes at Village Vintage in addition to the people selling items to Phoebe that she will sell at the shop. One person who contacts Phoebe about selling her wardrobe, Mrs. Bell, is an elderly woman. Phoebe develops a friendship with Mrs. Bell and learns the heart-breaking history behind a blue woolen child's coat that Mrs. Bell refuses to part with. The story goes back to Mrs. Bell's childhood in Avignon, France, during World War II, when she made a mistake that affected her best friend, Monique, for which she will never forgive herself.

The characters in this book are realistic and memorable. From the beginning, you root for Phoebe to do well with her shop. A Vintage Affair deals not only with her day-to-day dealings at the shop but also how her grief over the recent death of her best friend Emma affects Phoebe's life and her relationships. Phoebe moves on from her ex-fiance Guy and begins to date Miles, who is widowed with a spoiled teenage daughter. She becomes friends with another man, Dan, who writes a piece about the opening of the shop and helps bring in business. Plus, Phoebe's mother is having problems getting over her husband's affair with a younger woman which subsequently resulted in marriage and a new baby. As a consequence of being left for a younger woman, Phoebe's mother is obsessed with researching procedures and treatments she may use to appear younger.

I picked up this book because I was intrigued by the plot of a woman owning her own vintage fashion shop. I was quite transfixed by Wolff's descriptions of the dresses and other items for sale in Phoebe's shop, even though I do not know a great deal about fashion and designers. I found it interesting to learn about vintage clothes. But as I read I found the story to be so much more. Phoebe's relationship with Mrs. Bell is a wonderful part of the story, and I found myself caring as much about Mrs. Bell's past as I did about Phoebe's business and her life. By the end of the book, you'll be crying as Phoebe works towards finding what happened to Monique.