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3.35 of 5 stars 3.35  ·  rating details  ·  2,776 ratings  ·  299 reviews
Louise Canova should be happy and in love. But her actor husband seems to be growing distant and she doesn't know why. Is it her fault? Riddled with uncertainty, the insecurity she thought she'd left behind in adolescence comes back to haunt her.

But when she discovers a faded volume titled Elegance in a secondhand bookshop, she believes she's found the answers. Written by

Published January 2006 by Tea (first published 2003)
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I have a confession to make. I have always wanted to be elegant, like Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly. I know you'll find this hard to believe because I shlep around in jeans, baggy tees, and Dansko clogs. Not really the look of someone aspiring to elegance. This book runs through 26 tips on acquiring an elegant look, none are new or surprising. I guess the bottom line for me is my need for comfort outweighs my secret desire.

The premise for the book is an interesting one. The author, Kathleen Tass
Robert Beveridge
Kathleen Tessaro, Elegance (Morrow, 2003)

There is a particular passage in the book-within-a-book Elegance that defines, in a far more eloquent way, something I've been trying to pinpoint about the major problem with the fashion industry, and a major problem with western culture in general.

“However, if women continue to seek comfort above all twenty-four hours a day, twelve months a year, they may eventually find that they have allowed themselves to become slaves to the crepe-rubber sole, nylon f
My review from BookCrossing: Read it on the plane on the way to Seattle for a work trip. If it *is* chick lit, it's some of the cleanest I've ever read. . .

A moderately interesting book, we walk through a self-made makeover as the main character (I've forgotten her name and the book is at the hotel) goes through a transformation after finding an old copy of a book on elegance from the 40s (?). It's actually very interesting, describing buying classic pieces for your wardrobe, etc., and I learned
Bark's Book Nonsense
I read the abridged audio version of this book. This story is about a thirty-ish woman stuck in a dead end job who is married to a man who has no sex drive and is more interested in decorating their living room (and if you can't see the reason coming a mile away well then you simply haven't read enough Chick Lit books yet).

When she finds an ancient tome entitled Elegance in an old book store it gives her the incentive to dress better and is the beginning of some major changes in her current sta
I thought this book would be just another Bridget Jones knock-off. And in many ways it was. (I swear some of the scenes were practically lifted from that book.) But at times there was surprising depth to Elegance. Let's start with the irritations. How many American-girls-living-in-London books are going to be published? They are always living in flats they can't possibly afford. They always have gay friends. They are always buying clothes they can't possibly afford. They always drink too much. T ...more
Bev Hankins
I picked up Elegance by Kathleen Tessaro from the library primarily to help me fulfill one of the Take a Chance 3 Challenge requirements. This is a book about Louise Canova--thirty-something, unhappy with her looks, her life and her marriage. She comes across a book called Elegance in a secondhand bookshop that she thinks will be the answer to her prayers. This slim volume was written by the French fashion expert Madame Dariaux in the 1960s and Louise starts taking the A-Z guide to heart--changi ...more
Jessica Hiscocks
I'm not a fan of chick lit. This book was a classic case of judging the book by its cover (I have the hardback version with beautiful black pages) and to start with, I was convinced I'd picked a winner. In fact, for the first two thirds I was hooked. I liked Louise, I liked the fact she wasn't perfect. Then it all went downhill. Louise became annoying, self-absorbed and the story seemed padded. She had a sudden problem with food which was blamed on a bulimic back story to fill out a few pages. H ...more
Maia B.
How do I hate this book? Let me count the ways:

-Whiny, self-absorbed, infuriatingly stupid main character, Louise, who confuses sex with "elegance" and can't help herself out of any bad situation; she has to get other people to do it. Couldn't sympathize. Plus she made her therapist feel really bad for no reason except that she (Louise) is screwed up and integrally mean.
-Humor that didn't make me laugh. Ever. The excerpts from Madame Dariaux's book, Elegance, were the best parts of the novel. Wh
I found this book at the library, but all the pages were black and dirty looking and I didn't want something that icky in my house, so I went and bought a copy because I thought that I would really like it. I did and I didn't.

Apparently there's really a book out there called Elegance that the author found and apparently loved because she wrote a novel about a plain boring woman who finds the book and lets it change her life. It's like a beauty dictionary where each chapter is a letter from A to
This book was rather good. The main character, Louise, was believable and garners empathy from her audience, in that she had a dramatic past filled with eating disorders, troubled parents, unsuccessful romantic relationships, and career that never took off. She's very real.
Her marriage is boring and passionless, she doesn't really have any nice girlfriends, and she's lost sight of who she really is and what she wants out of life.
In short, her life hasn't turned out the way she thought it would
Love the cover - didn't like the book. When I got to the alphabetised 'F' chapter which concerned the 'elegance of wearing fur', I chucked the book down and said an expression that also started with the letter 'F' :)
Kate Hewitt
I wanted to like this book more than I did. It was interesting, and I finished it, but I found the main character strange and unlikeable. The book felt disjointed; she was meant to develop and change through the reading of the book of the title, a 1950s handbook on how to be elegant, but instead her transformation seemed to happen off the page: all of a sudden she's thin! I wish that could happen to me. She wears a dress from her closet that she's never worn and suddenly she's beautiful and men ...more
Short and sweet, 2006 bookcrossing journal:

Light reading for the summer. For that genre it is pretty good, although it is definately a city girl's story. There was one section where our heroine goes away with friends to the country one weekend. And some of the things she writes about the English countryside just made me think, 'dear, god, woman..' Pathetic wasn't in it. But that's just me and my hang ups!

Otherwise light reading about finding yourself and getting a nice warddrobe. Very cunning to
Tamara Morgan
This is another book in which I liked the premise a little bit more than the actual story. A woman discovers a 60s book teaching the importance of elegance (ala Audrey Hepburn) in a used book store and makes it her bible. Her life changes as her self-image changes.

Except for the fact that the "elegance" book is real (and I really want a copy), it's a pretty standard chick lit book. Too many resolutions and life changes were reached after a few page of set up, but it was otherwise light, fun, an
After a promising start, the book is dominated by banality. Witty dialogues are replaced by pathetic exchanges between this annoyiing anti-heroin and Eddie, the last, young lover. The effort to imitate the English humour, that comes also from the unique choice of words, is clear and unsuccessful. The main character is not can't even make up your mind on what she looks like, whether she's a great beauty or a chubby clumsy Bridget Jones (did we really need another one of those?) ...more
Christine Blachford
Plot: Louise finds a dusty old ’60s book on Elegance in the corner of a second hand shop. She takes the book to heart and it helps her through her divorce, her new found independence (including a new job and numerous social functions) and finding someone to share it all with.

Characters: Louise is a great character and I really felt that she was someone I could identify with. I felt like she could just as easily have been English, given some of the customs she was getting on board with, but that
A chick lit novel with a difference, a lot of the themes actually relate to real life.
When Louise Canova, a thirty something married woman who is stuck in a rut in her life, job, looks, fashion sense and even her husband who she secretly believes is gay walks into a second hand bookshop her life is changed by the discovery of a book on "Elegance" and how to achieve it by the enviable and fashionable Madame Antoine Dariaux.
But are the changes she makes to her life for the better?
Neurotically she
Another impulse purchased that panned out! Elegance is two books in one. Our main character Louise picks up a 1940s dictionary called (duh) Elegance (an impulse buy for her as well) and it ends up changing her life.

This dictionary has A to Z chapters about various woman-related subjects, from sweater seats to make up to proper ettiquette. While rather dated and occasionally ridiculous (such as, the entire chapter on furs), Elegance the dictionary guides Louise into realizing how unhappy she is i
My favorite make-over book! The story is built around Elegance, the non-fiction book by Dariaux. The main character in the book stumbles on a dusty copy of "Elegance" in a book store. Using the books advice she slowly transforms herself from a woman with an unhhappy marriage, trapped in a dull job with nothing to wear into a woman of style and substance.
Quick read - I had read another Kathleen Tessaro book years ago and always wanted to read this, and so grabbed it from the used books section of my library. Funny how a book written only ten years ago is outdated (the way the plot twist is written). Like other reviewers have described, the main character was not the easiest to like. I also thought the writing jumped around a bit much - past tense, present tense, future tense all semi-jumbled. And not a huge fan of the resolution. Hmm, so why 4 s ...more
Ενα βιβλιο που περιγραφει με κεφι και καλη διαθεση το μεγαλυτερο προβλημα της γυναικειας φυσης. Την χρυση τομη μεταξυ της γυναικειας φιλαρεσκειας και της απολυτης παραιτησης. Μια γυναικα ψαχνει την χαμενη θυληκοτητα της με οδηγο ενα βιβλιο με συμβουλες, για να βρει στο τελος την πραγματικη της ταυτοτητα.
Amanda Harrison
Elegance was a diverting enough novel about a thirty something woman who was struggling through a loveless marriage. Inspired by a book called Elegance, that she found in a second-hand bookshop, she alters her appearance and her life. As the typical clueless and bumbling character she divorces, moves in with her gay friend, improves her wardrobe, and her love life. My only real complaint about the story is that some of the scenes seemed completely one-off, designed to match the chapter titles of ...more
Bleah. I never could get to like Louise, the main character. In fact, I never could get past disliking her intensely.
Liz Moffett
Just never connected to Louise so I didn't really care what much happened to her.
Jan 29, 2014 Margaux rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: women,
Shelves: romance, modern, british
I read Elegance for the first time when I was in late middle schol/early high school. It's one of those books that has just stuck with me for some reason. It's about a woman who is stuck in an unloving marriage with a man who is, quite frankly, gay. She decides to change her life. At first she's reading A Guide to Elegance: For Every Woman Who Wants to Be Well and Properly Dressed on All Occasions every day and makes her world revolve around the little gems of wisdom within the pages of a forty ...more
Find the enhanced version of this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

Unhappy with herself, Louise Canova is inspired to reinvent her life under the careful tutelage of Madame Dariaux’s forty year old guide to quality and taste. Convinced she will emerge the very image of Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, Louise throws herself wholeheartedly into the endeavor, hanging on every word of the slim grey tome.

Initially, I was worried this was yet another attempt at recreating B
Mary Ronan Drew
Louise Canova, the American protagonist of Kathleen Tessaro's novel, Elegance, is unhappy. Everything in her life seems to be off kilter, including her deeply dissatisfying marriage. When she and her English husband split up she decides to strive for elegance, using a book she found in a second-hand bookstore.

Most chapters are headed with a quote from the book, which is real, by the way, and was written by Genevieve Antoine Dariaux in the 1960s. As Louise follows the advice in the book she finds
Louise is a 32 year old living in London with a closet full of shapeless brown garments, romance-free marriage and a job where nobody even notices she exists. One day at a second-hand book store she finds a slim volume entitled Elegance and decides to regain control of her life.

I don't keep books. In fact, I've decided to read everything in my book case and not buy anything new unless the library doesn't have what I want. And on the rare occasion that I do decide to keep a book it's because I'v
I really liked the premise of the book. Louise finds a book from the '50's about "elegance", how to dress, how to act, how to live. Tessaro interweaves sections of the book (alphabetically, "H is for Husbands") with the story. There's an actual book she uses for this. Whenever I see something like this, about not wearing black before noon and usage of gloves, the first reaction any woman has is--what use is it for today? And Tessaro answers that nicely. The plot and characters weren't all that, ...more
Ladies and gentleman, we have a contender for the most annoying protagonist in modern literature. I actually felt sorry for Louise during the first half of the book and was genuinely pleased that she was taking a hold of her life---but if you're looking for some sort of transformation from the ugly duckling to the beautiful swan, you've got the wrong book. Louise practically becomes a silly, wine-drinking, gossiping, self-entitled bimbo by the final page. Here's someone who starts out trying to ...more
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Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Kathleen attended the University of Pittsburgh before entering the drama program of Carnegie Mellon University. In the middle of her sophomore year, she went to study in London for three months and stayed for the next twenty-three years. She began writing at the suggestion of a friend and was an early member of the Wimpole Street Writer’s Workshop. Her debut novel ...more
More about Kathleen Tessaro...
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“My husband claims I have an unhealthy obsession with secondhand bookshops. That I spend too much time daydreaming altogether. But either you intrinsically understand the attraction of searching for hidden treasure amongst rows of dusty shelves or you don't; it's a passion, bordering on a spiritual illness, which cannot be explained to the unaffected.

True, they're not for the faint of heart. Wild and chaotic, capricious and frustrating, there are certain physical laws that govern secondhand bookstores and like gravity, they're pretty much nonnegotiable. Paperback editions of D. H. Lawrence must constitute no less than 55 percent of all stock in any shop. Natural law also dictates that the remaining 45 percent consist of at least two shelves worth of literary criticism on Paradise Lost and there should always be an entire room in the basement devoted to military history which, by sheer coincidence, will be haunted by a man in his seventies. (Personal studies prove it's the same man. No matter how quickly you move from one bookshop to the next, he's always there. He's forgotten something about the war that no book can contain, but like a figure in Greek mythology, is doomed to spend his days wandering from basement room to basement room, searching through memoirs of the best/worst days of his life.)

Modern booksellers can't really compare with these eccentric charms. They keep regular hours, have central heating, and are staffed by freshly scrubbed young people in black T-shirts. They're devoid of both basement rooms and fallen Greek heroes in smelly tweeds. You'll find no dogs or cats curled up next to ancient space heathers like familiars nor the intoxicating smell of mold and mildew that could emanate equally from the unevenly stacked volumes or from the owner himself. People visit Waterstone's and leave. But secondhand bookshops have pilgrims. The words out of print are a call to arms for those who seek a Holy Grail made of paper and ink.”
“My husband claims I have an unhealthy obsession with secondhand bookshops. That I spend too much time daydreaming altogether. But either you intrinsically understand the attraction of searching for hidden treasure amongst rows of dusty shelves or you don't; it's a passion, bordering on a spiritual illness, which cannot be explained to the unaffected.” 4 likes
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