Reviews

The Dressmaker's Gift by Fiona Valpy

triciaralph's review against another edition

Go to review page

4.0

Great story! I liked the little twists and turns and intermingling of past and present stories. I would not however recommend the audio book. Voices were odd.

shaddork's review against another edition

Go to review page

3.0

This book has some good bits in it, but it also has some bits that I'm tired of seeing in historical books. Things that wouldn't change following the actual history. It does seem that the author did her research, and at the end of the book, she did say a lot - if not all - of the sources that she used in order to research the historical period she chose to write in. Which, I'm thankful for, it's nice to know just what she used in order to do the research for the book. Either way, on to the review.

Plot

Because the book takes place in 2 time periods, it has essentially two plots. One where you're following a modern-day girl, who's traveling to Paris in order to apprentice in a fashion house. In doing this, she is also determined to find out as much about her grandmother's past as well. Then, there is the second plot, where you're following her grandmother and her two friends, who are in Paris, working in a seamstress shop. While they are in Paris, Paris is currently under the Nazi's invasion, so the tensions certainly are high. The girls are determined to attempt to help get the Nazis out of France, help with the resistance.


The plot is not inherently bad, it has major potential there. And the author was certainly trying to have one of those plots where it is rather obviously planned, you can tell my reading it, but it doesn't follow the usual 3 act structure. Instead, it chooses to attempt to feel more like real life where there is less of a cohesive plot, but the plot still there. Many books have done this type of storyline fantastically, I just personally don't think that the book did this all too well.


Potential is there, there is a lot of potentials to have this be a hard-hitting story. Yet, it just didn't quite hit the mark. Neither of the two plots feels like real life, they feel detached in some way. This definitely could have something more to do with the fact that I just, didn't vibe with the characters. I don't think that this is because of anything that the author did wrong, but more just of a personal taste thing, so for me, the plot just did not feel as if it was all there.



Characters

As I said in my section on the plot, I just didn't vibe with the characters. There was nothing there to make me feel as if they were like me. With the historical characters, I can understand that. They aren't supposed to feel as if they are like us in modern-day times. They haven't had the life we had, so they should feel different. But instead, they just felt, bleh. Versus other books that take place in a very close time period that I felt more of a connection with. An example of this being the boy in striped pajamas.


Even Harriet, who is supposed to be in relatively modern times, feels as if she isn't modern. She just kinda feels as if she exists. There are even points where she expresses how much she doesn't understand why one would fight so hard for life, only to take their own life. Which, is a fair confusion. However, in a specific situation, it's just plain off-putting. It doesn't come off as her trying to understand it, it comes off more as her judging others for it.



Character Development

I'm not gonna lie, I thought there was quite a bit of nice character development in this book. You get to see Harriet grow to understand her mother more through learning her grandmother's story. You get to see Claire grow as a person as well. It does help make them feel more human-like, yet somehow they still by the end did not feel entirely like humans. A lot of the character development is extremely spoiler-ey, and I'm going to try to avoid that. But I do think the reason that Claire- I think it was Claire -realized that being part of the resistance is a good thing and that just because it scares you, doesn't mean you shouldn't help. Was really silly.



Character Relationships

Ah yes, the relationships between characters. For the most part, I enjoyed them. Although the characters felt rather alien, they did have good relationships. Even if I didn't find many of them particularly exciting, they were enjoyable. Now there was one relationship in which I had some stronger feelings. The next paragraph will go over that relationship and marked as a spoiler as it doesn't happen really quickly in the book. But, in my opinion, it is relatively predictable.


Spoiler The Nazi soldier who is a love interest was so much more interesting to me than the other characters. Do I think he's a good person, no. And I don't think you should either, but he was at least interesting. While on the other hand, it annoyed me that they did the; Oh, he's a Nazi soldier and there's this romance but plot twist, he has a wife and kids. I've seen this done again and again, not just in Nazi-related books, but in nearly any book that ends up having a soldier as a love interest. What I think would make a really really refreshing book, is one that takes in the fact that a lot of Nazis and soldiers are brainwashed to believe incorrect things, which makes it so so easy to do awful actions. This is a common thing that cults do, and use, as well. Brainwashing, it's an actual thing that does happen. Think about it, a lot of the time your opinions are taught. They can be changed, and if you were in school and were constantly fed lies about a foreign country that paint then as an enemy, and you had no exposure to anything else, you would believe that. That's majorly what happens with Nazi's. So, what I think would be a really nice thing to see, would be seeing a soldier, whether or not they're a nazi or not, and when they get out in service, they start to see that their thoughts and beliefs are wrong. Through seeing the environment those people they're attacking live in, interacting with those who they believe are the enemy, things such as that. Which, a book that does so fantastically with that is the Tiger at Midnight. The main character realizes that so many of the things he was though, were wrong. And that's my mini-rant.



Other thoughts & things

Overall, I think the author and the book definitely have potential. If the author wrote something that was not as tricky to get people to like, I think she would have done a fabulous job. And that as her skills improve, she may very very well be able to write fabulous books in a specific genre like this.


Do i recommend this book? Not necessarily, but I don't think that it's a bad read though. You may read it and love it, but you may read it and not. At the end of the day, this one majorly just comes down on what types of books you like, and that this one just didn't do it for me. It might do it for you. Decide for yourself, don't let my review decide for you.

wdixon's review against another edition

Go to review page

3.0

This is a classic “past and present” flip flopping story. The present storyline talks a lot about the effects of trauma on mental health, as well as the real life terrorist attacks occurring in France in the present day. The past follows the narrator’s grandmother as she navigates the Holocaust with two roommates, all working for the resistance. It was interesting reading about how French couture fashion survived the war years all the way through, although it did bring to light how many people carried on with their lives without regard for what was going on around them, and continued buying fancy clothes for fancy parties while such devastation was occurring not that far away.

pdpatel0503's review against another edition

Go to review page

5.0

This is a heavy book. I am so glad I found it and pushed my way through the first few chapters. Once I got into it, I could not put it down. I had to know what happened to the three friends and figure out how we ended up with Harriet in Paris. Great story!

ellyrarg's review against another edition

Go to review page

3.0

Well, blah. I enjoyed the history chapters, between the three girls. I wonder if part of that was because their strength came from real life stories.

The present day chapters were awful. Harriet as a character was flimsy and awkward. Too much of her present was lost in reflection on her grandmothers past and it was trite and generally awful to read. She didn’t have any of her own depth, her character was a shallow mirror. Blah, so so blah.

Also, I feel like the author doesn’t appreciate the intelligence of the reader, as if everything needed to be spelt out (an example: the constant repetition and clarification of whose who in the last chapter, blah. Yes, we clearly understand from context that one Harriet is the great aunt, and one is a modern age drip).

There was also the problem of tying up all the loose ends in a manner that made everything smell of roses. It was awful. It was all done in the last two chapters, so it didn’t feel like a natural progression where everything settled, but an unrealistic force that’s determined that nothing be left askew. So blah.

It did have some shinning moments. The blue dress (in the intro and when she made it, not that awful last chapter) was lovely. V and the yellow triangles pulled my heartstrings (though could she not have sewed them into/under the patches? So they couldn’t even seen but with no evidence?).

Overall, Not a huge fan. The story has its merits, but I feel like it was poorly written. Hey ho.

brosepal's review against another edition

Go to review page

emotional hopeful inspiring reflective sad tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.0

This was my last book of January! This was a dual perspective from the present with Harriet interning at a PR firm in France and from WW2 with Claire working for a fashion house in France. Both stayed in the same apartment above their place of work and it takes you through Harriet learning of her grandmother, Claire’s experience being involved in the resistance during the war. 

There were aspects of this book that were really fun to learn about and I really loved Claire’s story as well as those of her friends Vivienne and Mierelle. To be honest, could’ve done without Harriet’s story. It felt like she was just summarizing everything we had read about Claire. There were also parts of the story that just felt too coincidental that it was distracting.

Overall though it was a quick read and I enjoyed it for the most part. I enjoyed discussing this with my college book club - we giggled a lot and had a great discussion.

becky_brown27's review against another edition

Go to review page

reflective

4.0

lcoverosey's review against another edition

Go to review page

4.0

Always more to uncover in that horrible war

namullis_'s review against another edition

Go to review page

3.0

3.5 stars. Harrowing to read in places (as it should be when giving an account for Nazi-occupied Paris!) Much preferred the story of the seamstresses to the story of the granddaughter and her mother. Felt like it was a LOT of heavy topics to bundle into one book - broken families, suicide, holocaust, trauma. Maybe too much to really do all topics justice.

lottieockenden's review against another edition

Go to review page

emotional sad medium-paced
  • Strong character development? Yes

5.0