My thanks to Jenny Platt at Hodder & Stoughton for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and providing me with a review copy. This review forms my honest opinion.
I need to tell you a story, ma chère . My story.
Rosa Kusstatscher has built a global fashion empire upon her ability to find the perfect outfit for
any occasion. But tonight, as she prepares for the most important meeting of her life, her usual
certainty eludes her.
What brought her to this moment? As she struggles to select her dress and choose the right
shade of lipstick, Rosa begins to tell her incredible story. The story of a poor country girl from a
village high in the mountains of Italy. Of Nazi occupation and fleeing in the night. Of hope and
heartbreak in Switzerland; glamour and love in Paris. Of ambition and devastation in Rio de
Janeiro; success and self discovery in New York.
A life spent running, she sees now. But she will run no longer
As January continues on in a similar vein to the horror show that was 2020, The Dressmaker of Paris has been the absolute best form of escape. I settled in to read feeling, if I’m honest, a little grumpy – and emerged knowing that this was a book I was going to adore (spoiler alert: I was right).
The story is told by Rosa herself, preparing herself for an unknown event and telling her story to someone unseen. The story is related in an interesting way, with each chapter pulling focus onto something within Rosa’s toilette, which then makes itself known within the story. At first I wasn’t sure about this element, it seemed very at odds with her younger self, but as the novel went on it grew on me, so that by the end I realised that it made complete sense for her as a character to relay her story with the aid of such props.
It was very reminiscent for me of early Lesley Pearse novels (one of my all time favourite authors), the sole focus on a character as they grow to adulthood, encountering heartbreak, tragedy, love and joy along the way. I absolutely love this genre of novel, I grew up reading them and I find them hugely comforting and immensely enjoyable – and it was this same warm experience I had whilst reading The Dressmaker of Paris.
The novel travels far in both time and geographical distance. Beginning in the mountains of Italy at the time of the Nazi occupation, circumstances force Rosa to run away. From there, each new chapter in Rosa’s life is accompanied by a change of location, and the world truly is her oyster. From a poor, young girl in a small mountain village, Rosa builds herself into a woman of means through her own skill, talent and business acumen. In each location the sense of place translates wonderfully, bringing out something new in Rosa herself.
I got lost in Rosa’s story, to the point where I forgot to drink my coffee while it was hot, and once or twice forgot to go to sleep at an appropriate time. She’s an imperfect character, likeable but definitely flawed – and it just makes her feel all the more real so that when the last page came (and don’t be fooled like I was by blank pages masquerading as another chapter – is there anything more devastating in the bookish world than a chapter that never was!?) I didn’t want to let her go.
I often find the hardest reviews to write are for books that I’ve fiercely loved because I just want to rabbit on about how much I loved it – and this is one of these occasions. For sheer enjoyment, I struggle to see how this won’t be one of my Top Reads for 2021 – bold words when we’re barely past the half way point in the first month of the year!
If you’re looking for a book to dive into and get lost in – this is the one!
The Dressmaker of Paris will be published on 28th January 2021.