Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Dress

Title:  The Dress
Author:  Kate Kerrigan
Publication Information:  Head of Zeus. 2016. 400 pages.
ISBN:  1784082384 / 978-1784082383

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The schoolmaster found the boy collapsed against a stone wall at the side of the road."

Favorite Quote:  "The problem with being a perfectionist ... is that life isn't perfect. Dresses can be perfect, because we can make them exactly how we want them. The perfect fit, the perfect finish, we can fashion couture to a standard that would satisfy the gods, but we can't do the same with life. The problem with those of us who make perfect things is that, sometimes, we think we can. The most imperfect things of all are people and love."

Lily Fitzpatrick is a fashion designer turned blogger; her specialty is vintage clothing. The story though begins outside the world of fashion. Lily's beloved grandfather passes away. In her efforts to overcome her grief, Lily latches on to an idea and a project. She comes across information about a woman in the 1950s with a one-of-a-kind magical dress and a last name that matches Lily's. Fashion, a family connection, and a fabulous dress ... Lily is hooked. The book then introduces the story of Frank and Joy Fitzpatrick and of Honor Conlon. Weaving back and forth, the book tells both stories, of the original dress and of Lily who sets out to recreate it.

The book cover and dress descriptions are lovely. The characters set up as likable. Lily is a strong, independent woman with a successful career and a life surrounded by friends. Frank is a man who escapes the brutality of his childhood and becomes a self-made success in a new world. Joy is to the manor born; she makes her life about her love and her marriage despite the disapproval of her family. Honor has a dream and the courage to pursue it even though that takes her far away from home. These back stories are not developed in detail, but the image is conveyed.

The book starts slow, with a lot of time spent on the initial setup and then the first creation of the dress; it details the materials, the artistry, and the investment. For all the details, though, I cannot actually picture the dress; it does not develop into the image on the cover either. I am not really sure how all the different pieces described come together into a magical cohesive whole.

However, I am ready for both the characters and the story to develop further. It does sort of, but in so many different directions. High couture. Blogging. Romance. Child abuse. Runaways. Alcoholism. Competition. Adultery. Miscarriage. Infertility. Theft. Family secrets. High society. 1930s. 1950s. 2014.

These are just some of the topics that come up in this book; the character development gets lost in all these topics. The events and incidents, one after another, become the story rather than the characters which established the initial interest in the story. The "why" and "how" are missing. Why did Lily's grandfather Joe never speak of his family? How did Frank go from a young boy from the wrong side of the tracks to the rich successful man? How and why does one friend betray another? How and why does one person sink into alcoholism?

These are just some of the questions that go unanswered. All of a sudden, everything seems to happen, particularly in Frank, Joy, and Honor's story. It happens quickly and without real development. The characters set up as rather likable and sympathetic turn out to be not so. Those who do find happiness find it almost instantly that it doesn't make sense. Although a plot driven drama can make for a wonderful book, without the explanations, this story loses its sense of reality for this reader.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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