Phoebe's life has fallen apart. She recently broke off her engagement and her best friend has died tragically young. Nothing goes right for her until she takes refuge in the new boutique she has just opened that specializes in vintage clothing. It's a place where clothes--and memories--are cherished. Phoebe can't explain why some dresses were meant for certain women or why a dress might choose its owner. But these things happen in Village Vintage. These clothes empower, heal, and restore. Because of her shop, Phoebe finally begins to repair her own life, ultimately finding peace with her past and embracing the hope of a future filled with love... and vintage clothes.
Admittedly, my style sense runs more along the lines of Old-Na-vy rather than Bal-en-ci-a-ga. (But isn't Balenciaga possibly the funnest word that could ever roll off of your tongue?) I'm not interested in fashion and I think that money is better spent on books and vacations than on high-end clothes and bags. (In fact, this may be the reason that my husband married me.) But I can appreciate the luxurious and lavish descriptions of vintage clothes in A Vintage Affair. The details are so vibrant that Wolff creates the same sensuous* effect for clothes that Julia Child did for food in My Life in France. Julia Child had my nose twitching and my mouth salivating. Wolff makes me long to run my own fingers over lovely draping fabrics.
If you are reading on the bus, in the airport, or downtown outside on your lunch break, you might find me peering surreptitiously over your shoulder, trying to see what book you're holding. Book-stalking is a lovely supplement to one of my favorite activities: people-watching. If I know the book and love it, I might start a conversation with you, if you seem amenable to tucking your bookmark between the pages and talking to a manic bibliophile. And if you recommend a book to me, I'll probably read it, if only so I can then talk about it with you. And I love to engage Barnes and Noble employees in literary discussions. Once I entered into a good-natured argument with a cashier who processed my order and then asked me to wait so that she could help the next customer. She gave him his change and immediately turned back to me to resume our discussion. (By the way, it was an Outlander-related disagreement.) I read A Vintage Affair because of a recommendation of a girl with a lovely Creole accent who worked at a Barnes and Noble in Baton Rouge, LA.
Grade: 3/5 stars. It's not likely that I'll be back in Louisiana any time soon just to talk to my new Cajun friend about her recommendation. But in the midst of reading some heavy war literature, A Vintage Affair was a welcome light read that affirmed forgiveness and new beginnings. And the merits of going vintage.
* Though similar, the words sensuous and sensual have very different connotations.
The following scene took place on January 1, 2011:
My mom (with nostalgia): Remember when we went to the Rose Parade? What a sensual experience!
My dad: Well, I'm not sure what YOU were doing. But to me it was a sensuous experience.