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Don't judge this book by its cover
A Vintage Affair - Isabel Wolff
Member Name: cerys82
A Vintage Affair - Isabel Wolff
Advantages: Great plot, well written
A Vintage Affair is the story of Phoebe Swift, who we join just as she is achieving a lifelong ambition - opening a shop selling the items that have been her lifelong passion - vintage clothing. Through the clothing that she sells, particularly the dresses - she inadvertently has an impact on other people's stories and lives and they also lead her into the arms of two potential romantic interests.
In particular it also leads her to meet Therese, an elderly Frenchwoman who approaches Phoebe in order to sell her pieces from her own designer vintage wardrobe as she no longer has any need for them. The two form an immediate bond, not least due to a beautiful mysterious child's jacket which Therese refuses to sell. Over time they reveal their tragic pasts to each other, both having lost people that they loved dearly and both living with an overwhelming feeling of guilt which has overshadowed their lives since. I do not want to reveal much more about the plot as there are lots of surprises in store.
I have to be honest and say that I was very, very pleasantly surprised by the book. The cover and the tagline - "Do fairytale dresses bring fairytale endings?" made me assume that it would be a pleasant but somewhat lightweight chicklit read. However, it has a really engaging plot and packs a real emotional punch, sometimes when you least expect it. There are also some genuinely surprising revelations along the way. There are a lot of secret histories to be unfolded and this is done really well, but still manages to keep you guessing.
The way that the stories are interwoven with the people who buy or seek the clothes, is really clever and nowhere near as contrived as it possibly could have been. The only plot thread which grates a little is that of Phoebe's relationship with her parents who are newly estranged from each other as her father now has a family which a much younger woman after an adulterous affair.
The clothes in particular are lushly described. I have no real knowledge of designers or vintage clothing but I really got a sense of the appeal of it, which to me is a testament to how could the book and the writing is. In lesser hands it could forma very frivolous subject matter which could undermine the rest of what the book is trying to achieve. As it is the light and the dark is managed perfectly and the more tragic elements of the book are well considered and judged so it is rather more moving than sentimental. The characterisation is good also. Phoebe in particular is an interesting protagonist, sympathetic but a more flawed character than you would expect - gradually revealing herself over time.
For once in this type of novel the romantic interests are believable, not least as they are inexplicably drawn to Phoebe the way that most of the people throughout the novel are - through the shop.
In conclusion, I really enjoyed this book and found it largely unputdownable and would highly recommend it to any fans of chicklit.
Summary: One of the best chicklits I have read in a while