Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Vintage Affair-Isabel Wolff

A Vintage Affair
Isabel Wolff
Bantam, Jun 29 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780553807837

In 1983 in London preadolescents Emma Kitts and Phoebe Swift meet at primary school in the Blackheath neighborhood. They become best friends. As adults they remained BFFs until Phoebe becomes engaged to the man Emma has fallen in love with. Not paying attention to Emma’s needs, Phoebe is not there for her when her buddy dies. Feeling guilt and remorse, Phoebe ends her engagement and quits her job at Sotheby and goes after her dream.

Phoebe loves vintage clothing so she opens up a boutique in Blackheath. Her shop is a success and she loses herself imagining the history of the garments she sells. Elderly Mrs. Bell commissions Phoebe to sell her entire wardrobe. Fascinated by what the elderly woman tells her about failing her best friend, a Jew, during the Nazi occupation of France, Phoebe begins to heal by forgiving herself for failing Emma. She even has two boyfriends; her first since dumping her fiancé.

A Vintage Affair is an enjoyable British contemporary character study that focuses on history repeating it self at the individual level as Phoebe, Mrs. Bell and readers learn that betrayal, guilt, grief and self forgiveness are recurring human traits. The story line effortlessly moves back and forth in time as the theme is affirmed in each subplot. Although the key males come across as emaciated, readers will appreciate visiting Blackheath as redemption seems just around the corner of the person seeking solace.

Harriet Klausner

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