Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Review: The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag

Since her parents’ mysterious deaths many years ago, scientist Cora Sparks has spent her days in the safety of her university lab or at her grandmother Etta’s dress shop. Tucked away on a winding Cambridge street, Etta’s charming tiny store appears quite ordinary to passersby, but the colorfully vibrant racks of beaded silks, delicate laces, and jewel-toned velvets hold bewitching secrets: With just a few stitches from Etta’s needle, these gorgeous gowns have the power to free a woman’s deepest desires.

Etta’s dearest wish is to work her magic on her granddaughter. Cora’s studious, unromantic eye has overlooked Walt, the shy bookseller who has been in love with her forever. Determined not to allow Cora to miss her chance at happiness, Etta sews a tiny stitch into Walt’s collar, hoping to give him the courage to confess his feelings to Cora. But magic spells—like true love—can go awry. After Walt is spurred into action, Etta realizes she’s set in motion a series of astonishing events that will transform Cora’s life in extraordinary and unexpected ways.

Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Expected publication: December 30th 2014 by Ballantine Books 
Genre: Magical Realism

Kristine's Thoughts:

I received an advanced readers copy from Ballantine Books via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

The Dress Shop of Dreams is a very unique and different story. Etta and Cora are the two main characters but there are a wide range of people who's voices are heard on the pages who are all linked in one way or another. At first it can be a little confusing but it becomes very clear and effective as the story unfolds.

Etta's dress shop is special. Women don't choose the dresses, they choose the women. With an added little red stitch that Etta adds, magic happens. When I say magic I don't mean potions and spells or crazy and unrealistic magic. These dresses give the women awareness, self- confidence, self esteem and things like that. It is very subtle so readers who fear stories that are outside the norm need not fear or avoid this book. It is very well done.

The story is definitely one of love...lost, unrequited and new. Through all of the different voices there is a different kind of love present. If love is not your thing, there is also a mystery to be solved that I was not expecting. I wasn't entirely thrilled with the final outcome of that aspect but at the same time I guess I kind of understand it.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Originally it was the synopsis that attracted me to it but I thought it could go either way. Magical realism is a hard genre to nail but if done right can be great and if done wrong can be just plain bad. I am happy to report that this book was done right and made for a quick, pleasant and enjoyable read.

About the Author
Menna van Praag was born in Cambridge, England and studied Modern History at Oxford University. Her first novella - an autobiographical tale about a waitress who aspires to be a writer - Men, Money & Chocolate has been translated into 26 languages. Her first work of literary fiction, The House at the End of Hope Street, was inspired by an idea the author had to set up a house for female artists to give them a year to fulfil their artistic ambitions. Her next novel, The Dress Shop of Dreams, is set on the magical street of All Saints Passage where a scientist falls in love with a mysterious man who has a magical voice. All Menna van Praag's novels, excepting Happier Than She's Ever Been, are set among the colleges, cafes and bookshops of Cambridge, England.

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1 comment:

  1. The bit about the dresses choosing the girl reminds me of the wand choosing its master in Harry Potter.. HAHA. Anyway, I find this book really interesting, and would love to check it out. Great review! :)

    -Kimi at Geeky Chiquitas