At first glance, this book appears to be light chick lit, giving you the impression that it’s about clothes and possibly the history of one particularly beautiful vintage dress. However, a few pages in, you will realize that it’s not. It’s so much more than that.
The main character, Phoebe Swift, has an extraordinary love for vintage clothing. She has an eye for these interesting finds that are in high demand because of their uniqueness, excellent craftsmanship, and history. She understands that they seem to possess a certain mysterious magic that calls out to you, then envelopes you as you put on that one particular dress seemingly made just for you—yet whispers of someone else’s elusive past. Because of this, she leaves her job to put up her own vintage shop, Village Vintage.
As a reader, you are aware from the start that something horrible has happened to her best friend Emma. You later find out that she passed away due to an illness, but you also realize that Phoebe blames herself for it. What makes matters worse is that Phoebe had actually gotten engaged to the man Emma fancied to be The One. Struggling with these demons, Phoebe, who is now single, meets several people because of her new shop. There’s Dan, a charming reporter who does a feature on her and brings in lots of new business; Miles, a handsome widowed father who asks Phoebe out and even takes their romance to Avignon, France; and Mrs. Bell, an elderly Frenchwoman who sells Phoebe her old clothes—except for one little blue coat.
Amidst the swish of delicate vintage fabric, Phoebe gets to know them all, making her life not just extremely interesting, but deeper on so many levels.
Wolff describes the clothes with such reverence, it makes you wish Village Vintage really existed and were just a few blocks down the street. You could imagine spending an entire day just browsing through the items in the store and trying on whatever catches your fancy. The stories of each customer buying the different dresses add a special touch to the story, not distracting from the plot but enriching it.
The trip back in time.
It’s only fitting that Phoebe is entrusted with the story behind Mrs. Bell’s little blue coat that took place during the second World War. Wolff writes with such heart when it comes to the pain, suffering, and bittersweet survival that came with the horrors of Nazi Germany’s occupation.
When Phoebe goes to Avignon to buy more stock for her store, she is invited by Miles to spend a day in his family vineyard, harvesting grapes. The scene isn’t just quaint and homey, it’s also very romantic.
Though this book does not disappoint on any level, you may feel that Guy, Phoebe’s ex fiancé, could have been treated better. It is understandable that, as the story is told from Phoebe’s point of view, the reader’s perspective will be highly influenced by her thoughts, however, you may still feel that although Phoebe did make a good choice in the end, Guy deserved better.
Bookshelf Meter: 4 stars
1 star – Don’t even bother.
2 stars – Since there’s nothing else to read…
3 stars – Worth a borrowing from a friend, but not buying your own
4 stars – Deserves a spot on your nightstand.
5 stars – Grab this book now and forget the one you’re reading!
Olivia has been writing ever since she can remember. She has written for health, teen, parenting, and children's magazines. Her latest endeavor is being a mom to her three-year-old daughter—her toughest assignment yet. Swap stories with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.