Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Dressmaker - Elizabeth Birkelund Oberbeck

The Dressmaker
Elizabeth Birkelund Oberbeck
Henry Holt and Company


Claude Reynaud, 46, lives in the small town of Senlis, north of Paris. His life, like the lives of three generations before him, is dedicated to creating clothing. At one time, he had the opportunity to join a fashion house in Paris. His refusal was the final blow to his marriage, and his wife, Rose-Marie left him. That was eight years ago, and although he hasn’t heard from her since, she has never served him with divorce papers. Claude has developed a following among the elite ladies of Paris, who are willing to make the drive for Claude’s expertise. He’s well known for creating gowns that perfectly complement a woman’s figure and coloring.

His carefully ordered life is thrown into disarray when Mlle Valentine de Verlay appears in his shop. Claude is immediately and deeply smitten with the woman. Indeed, he may be in love for the first time in his life. Sadly, Valentine has come to him for her wedding gown. In time, Valentine begins to reciprocate Claude’s feelings, but is determined to stay true to her fiancé, Victor. Claude eventually makes what, for him, is the ultimate sacrifice for love. He leaves his small shop for the fashion world of Paris.

The author writes with a lyrical quality that reveals a deep compassion for her characters, Claude and Valentine, and echoes the nature of the story. These two main characters are deep and complex; not perfect individuals, but two people thrown by an unexpected connection. The characters of Victor, and Rose-Marie suffer in comparison, seeming much more one-dimensional. Clearly, the author is writing with an insider’s view of the world of fashion, making Claude’s transition from predictable life in Senlis to the chaos of Paris effectively jarring. This is a lovely debut novel, promising great things to come.

Rating: 7 ½
July 2006
ISBN# 0-8050-8033-3 (hardcover)


Post a Comment

<< Home