Book Review: The Dress in the Window
Synopsis: A perfect debut novel is like a perfect dress—it’s a “must have” and when you “try it on” it fits perfectly. In this richly patterned story of sisterhood, ambition, and reinvention Sofia Grant has created a story just right for fans of Vintage and The Dress Shop of Dreams. World War II has ended and American women are shedding their old clothes for the gorgeous new styles. Voluminous layers of taffeta and tulle, wasp waists, and beautiful color—all so welcome after years of sensible styles and strict rationing.
Jeanne Brink and her sister Peggy both had to weather every tragedy the war had to offer—Peggy now a widowed mother, Jeanne without the fiancé she’d counted on, both living with Peggy’s mother-in-law in a grim mill town. But despite their grey pasts they long for a bright future—Jeanne by creating stunning dresses for her clients with the help of her sister Peggy’s brilliant sketches.
Together, they combine forces to create amazing fashions and a more prosperous life than they’d ever dreamed of before the war. But sisterly love can sometimes turn into sibling jealousy. Always playing second fiddle to her sister, Peggy yearns to make her own mark. But as they soon discover, the future is never without its surprises, ones that have the potential to make—or break—their dreams.
My review: 3.5 stars.
At face value, this book has many things I enjoy– historical fiction featuring women during post-World War II period and fashion. It is essentially the story of 3 women trying to make their way in the world after losing their husbands/boyfriends during World War II: Jeanne, Peggy, and Peggy’s mother-in-law Thelma ( and a tiny bit about Peggy’s daughter, Tommie).
It took me a bit to get into the story and to really care about the characters. I didn’t feel like a lot of the intrigue began until 150 or so pages in. There were some aspects of the story that I thought would be bigger plot points, but then nothing came of them. I found so much of the story to be sort of sad actually, especially as the relationship between the two sisters evolved and soured. I thought the ending was quite abrupt– even though there was an epilogue, I think the final details of the story could have been woven into the main book. I thought the prologue was entirely unnecessary, as well as a lot of aspects of Thelma’s story.
What I loved was all the references to fashion and the changing nature of clothing in America after World War II. This served as a great backdrop to the story lines of Jeanne and Peggy as it helped give some great context for their lives and changing roles as women too. Since fashion history is one of my interest areas and part of my day job, it was clear that the author did a lot of research into this time period of fashion history to get details correct, and really capture the moment when American fashion in the form of sportswear and off-the-rack/ready to wear clothes took off.
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As part of the TLC Book Tour for this book, I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.