This is a fantastic story dealing with friendship, betrayal and forgiveness. I fell in love with both the characters and the vintage clothing that the author did such a wonderful job creating and bringing to life. The plot moves at a solid pace and kept my attention from start to finish. The story takes place in modern day England and France.
Phoebe Swift quit her job of 12 years at Sotheby’s Auction House to open her own vintage clothing store. She’s had plenty of experience in the purchasing, repairing and selling of vintage clothing and names her store Village Vintage. At the start of the story Phoebe is trying to get a handle on her emotions; she’s excited about opening the store, nervous about her bank loan that financed the store, and struggling with feelings of guilt over her best friend’s death and her part in it. She’s in her mid thirties, tall and somewhat attractive.
Dan Robinson is a local reporter who has convinced Phoebe to do an interview for his paper, it’s a new paper and their circulation is small but he’s convinced that the interview will increase her sales in the area. Dan has absolutely no fashion sense, wears colors that clash and has a strange interview style but Phoebe is hopeful that the interview will have good results. Dan has a love for classic films, which he shares with Phoebe, in hopes that she will understand that he is romantically interested in her and eventually return his feelings. He’s content to be her friend at first but his romantic interest in her never wavers and eventually she realizes that he could be more than a just a friend.
As the store picks up business, Phoebe realizes that she will need to hire at least one part time staff person to help free her so that she can attend auctions and private sales to restock merchandise. Annie, a customer browsing through the store, confides that she loves vintage clothing but can’t really afford to buy any as she is an actress that only works part time. Phoebe hires Annie after verifying her references and the two women strike up a very comfortable working relationship that eventually becomes more.Phoebe receives a call from Mrs. Theresa Bell, an elderly woman who has vintage clothing that she wants to sell. While Phoebe is appraising the clothes she strikes up a conversation with Mrs. Bell, which eventually leads to friendship. The two women have a love of vintage clothing in common and they also sense a shared feeling of regret. While going thru the clothes, Phoebe runs across a child’s blue coat and after some time, Mrs. Bell confides in Phoebe and explains why she’ll never be able to sell the coat. While Mrs. Bell’s story takes place during World War II, it shares the common theme of friendship and betrayal that parallel the events in Phoebe’s recent past. Phoebe soon recognizes that Mrs. Bell is dying and becomes obsessed with resolving the mystery of what happened to Mrs. Bell’s friend.
I loved how the author wove the mystery of the Mrs. Bell’s friend, Monique, into the events in Phoebe’s life and how fate seemed to help Phoebe solve the puzzle. From the romantic relationship that she strikes up with Miles, a rival bidder on a dress, that takes her to Mrs. Bell’s hometown in France. To the white feathered evening bag from America that provides her with clues to someone in Canada who proves to be an invaluable resource for answers.
The secondary characters in this book were well developed and all played a role in Phoebe’s growth. We get to see Phoebe interact with her parents and their recent divorce after 38 years of marriage and with how her relationship with each parent changes and grows as a result. We also get to see Phoebe and her romance with Miles, and the challenge that they faced from his teenage daughter. We get to see Phoebe make decisions about love that change the direction her life will take. All of the tragic elements in the story are resolved by the end of the book and we get to see both Mrs. Bell and Phoebe reach a level of peace regarding their past decisions. The conclusion of the book finds Phoebe in a hopeful place with a great outlook towards the future and with the start of a new romance.
I would also like to add that the vintage clothing was vividly and beautifully described and that you could tell that the author had done her research. In fact, I would say that the vintage clothing was almost a character in itself and that it added an extra level of depth to my enjoyment of this book. I look forward to reading more of Ms. Wolff’s work in the future.
Phoebe Swift’s friends are stunned when she abruptly leaves a plum job to open her own vintage clothing shop in London—but to Phoebe, it’s the fulfillment of a dream, and her passion. Digging for finds in attics and wardrobes, Phoebe knows that when you buy a piece of vintage clothing, you’re not just buying fabric and thread—you’re buying a piece of someone’s past. But one particular article of clothing will soon unexpectedly change her life.
Thérèse Bell, an elderly Frenchwoman, has an impressive clothing collection. But among the array of elegant suits and couture gowns, Phoebe finds a child’s sky-blue coat—an item with which Mrs. Bell is stubbornly reluctant to part. As the two women become friends, Phoebe will learn the poignant tale of that little blue coat. And she will discover an astonishing connection between herself and Thérèse Bell—one that will help her heal the pain of her own past and allow her to love again.