Danielle's Reviews > A Vintage Affair

A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff
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Jun 13, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2010-favorites, books-i-own, chicklit, favorite-authors, favorites, for-review
Read in June, 2010

Two women from very different times and life circumstances are interwoven to tell the story of friendships had and then lost suddenly. It is through the shared interest in a small handmade coat that Phoebe and Therese find that their journeys are not so different and that overcoming guilt can be almost as difficult as the loss itself. In this beautifully illustrated story by Isabel Wolff we can begin to see just how important those small connections can be in moving forward and truly appreciating the lives we now have.

From an outsider’s viewpoint Phoebe and Therese couldn’t be more different. Phoebe is a young and now successful vintage clothing seller and has everything to look forward to in her seemingly wonderful life. Therese is a frail eighty year old woman coming to the end of a long life of experiences, some good and others very disheartening. But looking closer, you see that they are more similar than a cursory glance would give you insight into. Each carries with them a heavy burden of guilt, in addition to the loss of someone they held most dear for so much of their lives. This guilt initially binds them together, but it is their joint triumph and friendship that finally becomes the sealant to their somewhat peculiar relationship. And all of this began with a simple coat handmade by Therese’s own mother.

It was also the beautiful writing of Wolff that helped you appreciate the more difficult situations in A Vintage Affair. Therese’s story of her friend and the loss associated with that was so beautifully written that I felt she truly did justice to the heartbreak that revolved around those years of Nazi occupation in Europe. In Miles’ struggle with the loss of his first wife and now the control over his over-indulged daughter Roxy, you see new insight into the life of a single parent struggling to make things right. A young teenager, Katie, has a desire to be kind and work hard for what she is given. It is even in Dan and his eagerness and spontaneity that light up the room when he enters to block out even the most harrowing of days. These and so many others in the story make up the wonderful story that Wolff tells with ease.

Most of all Phoebe and her love of vintage clothing with her determination to move forward are the two things I most admired. Her character was rich and in every way I could relate to her desire to move forward, to make a path for herself by doing something she had a passion for. It was Isabel Wolff’s descriptions that made Phoebe’s passion shine through. Every time Phoebe picked up an article of clothing or saw one in any setting, you almost felt as though you could feel the satin of the dress or possibly devour the lusciously delightful “cupcake” dresses. Each experience was so personal and beautifully written that I couldn’t manage to put the book down. In fact, I read it in its entirety in one day.

In so many ways I loved this book, but in one way I struggled with it tremendously. Without giving away too much of the book I will say, I had a friend much like Emma in the book and it has taken me some time to come to terms with that experience in my life. Perhaps that is part of why I connected so well, but I’m positive it is only part of the reason. Phoebe’s story and her journey to a point of happiness in her life were inspiring.

A Vintage Affair is definitely a book that I will be recommending to friend after friend for some time to come. Phoebe and Therese, as well as all the characters in the book, came alive as I read the pages. Each had a journey, and no matter how disheartening it brought with it an understanding and appreciation for the struggle along the way that made it worth it. More importantly, the theme of letting go and living in the moment was what struck me most about the book. Never take what you have for granted, enjoy it until the very last second and when the time comes have the courage to let it go. A beautiful book, with a wonderful backdrop that I will not likely soon forget.
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