This novel relates the story of two strong women who work in the fashion industry.
1. Estella, 20-ish, leaves her single mother behind in her hometown of Paris in 1940, for the safer environment of New York City, just as World War II is beginning. Estella’s dream is to design her own fashions in the city’s garment district.
2. Fabianne, Estella’s granddaughter, is on the verge of starting a new and very prestigious job in Australia (her home country and the author’s) in 2015, when she comes to NYC to visit her ailing grandmother, now in her 90s.Estella has always hoped her design business would stay in the family and wants Fabianne to take over when Estella dies. But Fabianne doesn’t want the responsibility or the legacy on her shoulders. And she doesn’t think she has a talent that matches up to her famous grandmother’s.Both stories weave back and forth and both are engrossing. Estella’s is full of the drama of World War II, at a time when Paris could no longer lead the world of fashion, opening the way for American designers to fill the void. And Fabianne’s story is about a successful women weighing personal ambitions against family obligations. Both stories remain compelling throughout the book.
There is also a mystery in this family’s past — with an important historical link to the infamous Stanford White – Evelyn Nesbit – Harry Thaw love triangle that mesmerized New York society early in the 20th century — the very first instance when the media invoked the term, Trial of the Century. The connection is slow to unravel and obviously adds even more to the compelling nature of the book.
My criticism of the book lies primarily with the two male characters (Alex and Will) who provide the love interests for Estella and Fabianne, respectively. They struck me as two identical cardboard cutouts. Both heroic, magnetic, dashing, and, of course, incredibly handsome. They were SO alike and so nearly perfect that I had some difficulty at times remembering which woman’s story I was reading, because there wasn’t that much that differentiated the two men. Either in looks or behavior.