Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Vintage Affair (Isabel Wolff, 2009)

The Heroine: Phoebe Swift, a vintage fashion enthusiast opening up her own vintage clothing store in London. Haunted by the recent death of her best friend, for which she believes she is responsible, Phoebe finds kinship in Mrs. Bell, an elderly lady with a secret to share. Phoebe attempts to help Mrs. Bell find closure with her past while navigating her new relationship with a single father and an unlikely friendship with a newspaper journalist. As Phoebe comes closer to finding out what really happened in Mrs. Bell's past, she ultimately finds closure and truth in her own life.

The Highs: I enjoyed A Vintage Affair much more than I did The Very Picture of You, a book I previously read and reviewed by Isabel Wolff. Though the writing of both books are equally charming and suspenseful, I found Phoebe's story more complex and therefore more interesting. The numerous layered subplots of this book keep each chapter fresh and I found myself tearing quickly through this novel.

I absolutely love the mix of past and present within the plot. Though the story doesn't include any actual flashbacks, I love the effect history, both within society and personal, has on the present and that is definitely felt in the plot of this novel. Even the placement of vintage clothing in the story tells us a little about the past. Not to mention the details of the gorgeous garments in Phoebe's story create beautiful descriptions.

Also, Phoebe's emotional journey feels very real and organic. She is a well-rounded character, with both good and bad traits. She is a little aloof and somber, but she has a very kind, generous heart within her serious exterior. I felt a real camaraderie with her and I was really invested in her story. I'm so happy that everything turned out well for her in the end (I don't feel that saying this is really much of a spoiler since it's described as a "romantic comedy")!

The Lows: On the back cover of this book, it says that it is a "romance". I really do not agree with this label. Though there is a romantic subplot to the story, it is not at the forefront of the novel and, at the end, the story is really about Phoebe's emotional journey to acceptance of the past. The important themes are friendship, redemption, forgiveness and loving yourself, not romantic love. I wouldn't have felt too disappointed about this, except for the fact that the story hints to a romantic relationship at the end, but never confirms it. This leaves me wondering, which is really just annoying.

I also felt that the ending was a little too "clean". Every subplot ends in a perfectly happy, perfectly packaged ending. Real life is rarely like this, and it irks me when authors complete their stories this way.

Final Thoughts: I adored this book and I got through it quickly. It's sweet, happy and uplifting – all the makings of good chick lit.

Rating: A Vintage Affair earns seven vintage gowns out of ten. 

To buy 'A Vintage Affair' on Amazon, click here
To connect with author Isabel Wolff, click here
Photo from here

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