Continuing the series on sewing fiction, I received an advance reader copy of Birds in the Air from the author. I think Frances could tell by my blog that I am a quilter that reads, and asked if I would like to read her new book. Of course, I said yes, as it was set around a quilt show in a small town in North Carolina. Right up my alley. Later I found out that not only is she a resident of NC, but she has been quilting for a number of years too! I did not promise her a review, she sent it with no strings. But guess what, it is a wonderful story.
Birds In The Air by Frances O’Roark Dowell is named for a quilt block, and I had to look it up to see it. Amazing, Tango has that basic shape in it. The story involves a woman whose family moves to a small town in the mountains of NC. Her husband and daughter settle in quickly with job and school, but Emma needs something to do. Finding an old quilt in an attic trunk is the catalyst for searching out the local quilt shop. She is not a quilter to start with, but that quickly changes. Through a series of events, she ends up learning to quilt as well as becoming the publicist for the local guild’s quilt show. That doesn’t sit well with some of the members who consider her an outsider. Conflict with another guild member creates a disaster for the quilt show, and help comes from an unlikely source. The story is interesting and told in an easy to read style, and I found it difficult to put down. I also like that Emma is happily married, as many of these series begin with a divorce so the woman can find her own way. I like that a married woman can also find her own way while having a family and a committed relationship. I finished it in just a few days.
The book will be published on September 24th, and one lucky reader will get a copy from the author. Just comment on this post. Giveaway is over.
The second book to tell you about is The Florabama Ladies Auxilliary and Sewing Circle by Lois Battle. This book is also set in a small town, with a newly divorced woman moving there for a job. This book was another one where the title is misleading. There is a sewing bit in the last third of the book, but it isn’t explored as well as it could have been. The story follows the ladies as they are downsized out of jobs, and try to find their way in new situations, returning to school and finding work. The sewing circle becomes a way to make some money, but even that has a disaster that the central character should have seen coming, I sure did. It annoys me when a woman is portrayed as just being stupid, making idiotic choices. So, I cannot really recommend this one, there are better books to spend your time reading.
Then there is Miss Scarlet’s School of Patternless Sewing, but I almost wall banged this book halfway through. That is where the book is so bad you throw it against the wall to avoid wasting any more time on it. The dialogue is stilted, (no one really talks this way), being bludgeoned with platitudes, overly perky ‘blog posts’, and has completely unrealistic plot with an even more unrealistic conclusion. It seems to be written by someone very young and idealistic, but the world doesn’t work this way. I’m sure I’ll be branded as a “negative nellie” as stated in the novel to be ignored as someone unhappy with their life, but I am very happy with my life thank you very much. And if you cannot handle criticism, you will never grow. This story had so much potential, a fresh point of view and story of achieving dreams with determination, but didn’t deliver. The characters never really captured my interest. It left the impression of being a Young Adult novel written by someone who hasn’t really had any similar experience, rather than being a novel of accomplishment through hard work. After all, how many 30-year-old protagonists with two years of grunt work experience (and two degrees, really?) get made CEO of a multi-national company? NOT!! Pass this one by unless you are in your 20s. There are much better books to read.
One of those better books is A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff that I reviewed last year. The book jacket describes this story as centering around a woman, Phoebe, who opens a vintage clothing store. She likes to think about the woman that owned a garment before her, what her life might have been like. When she encounters an elderly French woman who wishes to sell some of her garments, Phoebe finds a new friend with a story of her own. What the jacket doesn’t say is that both women are trying to overcome a tragedy in their lives. There is a connection between the two women in that each blames herself for circumstances beyond her control. The revelation of these circumstances to each other helps each woman to come to terms with the past and give light to the future. This isn’t a sad story, it is a beautifully written journey with hope. The descriptions of the clothes will make a textile enthusiast drool with happiness. She describes 1950s prom dresses with bustier tops and frothy net petticoat skirts as cupcake dresses. There is lovely detail in the descriptions of Vivienne Westwood skirts, a Balenciaga dark blue silk evening gown, and a pleated evening gown by Madame Gres, along with other items. It makes the reader want to visit this store and feel the fabrics, admire the buttons and peruse the hats and jewelry. I’d really enjoy spending an afternoon there.
I recently found another book to add to Mt TBR (Mount To-Be-Read), The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham set in 1950s. It was made into a movie starring Kate Winslet last year, but I don’t remember seeing it in the theaters here. It is set in Australia, and is categorized as Australian revenge comedy. It was nominated for a number of Australian film awards and won several.
Are you reading any sewing fiction from this series of posts? Or any sewing fiction?
Comment to be entered into the drawing for a copy of Birds in the Air. The drawing will be by random number, and will take place on Saturday morning, Eastern Daylight Time in US. Drawing is open to readers anywhere in the world. Drawing has been held.