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The Dressmaker    by Elizabeth Oberbeck order for
by Elizabeth Oberbeck
Order:  USA  Can
Henry Holt, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Kerrily Sapet

Claude Reynaud knows the measure of a woman. Literally. As a dressmaker taught by his father, Claude works in his own small, cluttered shop. Although he lives in the small French village of Senlis, Parisian women seek him out. He designs the dress to suit the woman, seeing fabric, color, and texture like no one else. Married, yet separated from his greedy wife for eight years, Claude hasn't looked twice at a woman, until Valentine de Verlay walks into his shop. Casual and sophisticated, with alluring blue eyes, Valentine captures Claude's attention. The only problem ... he is designing her wedding dress. Such is the beginning of The Dressmaker by Elizabeth Birkelund Oberbeck.

As Claude becomes entangled with Valentine, he determines that she does not feel more than a brotherly love for her husband-to-be. Making her the center of his world, Claude feels pulled in many directions. By being drawn towards Valentine, he is torn away from his beloved village to the center of Paris and a large fashion design firm. His resulting success brings his wife back into the picture, as she desires Claude solely for his money and prestige. Claude's nephews feature prominently in the story as well, as Claude witnesses a budding romance and the innocence of a first love, along with childlike trust and simplicity. In the end Claude must decide his own future, whether he will allow himself to be tossed in the turmoil of his emotions or make a decisive path - determining what is most important to him, even if that sometimes means letting a dream go.

Glorious fleeting seasonal images are woven through this story of a dressmaker who loves a woman who plans to marry another. A palette of color and scents decorate the pages as the author describes peach fašades of buildings, window boxes dripping with flowers, and the wafting smell of apple blossoms in the spring, a time when everything is hopeful, like the dressmaker himself.

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