An enchanting novel brimming with poignancy, humour, enchantment and insight, this is a stunning debut. Imagine an Audrey Hepburn film in the present day...It was a slim, grey volume entitled Elegance. It was buried between a fat, obviously untouched volume on the history of the French monarchy and a dog-eared paperback edition of D.H. Lawrence's Women in Love. Deep in the hushed dimness of a second-hand bookshop, Louise Canova discovers a faded hardback. It is an A-Z of how to be elegant, written many years before by a Frenchwoman, Genevieve Antoine Dariaux. As she starts reading, the book's pages whisper something elusive: a way to face up to her unhappy marriage and recapture her self-esteem. 'You can always tell the character of a woman by the care and attention she lavishes on the details of her dress.' From Accessories to Zippers, there is nothing that Madame Dariaux cannot rule upon. Her writing stirs up memories of mothers and daughters, friendships and lovers, and seems to Louise to contain a magic: a wisdom that remains timeless. But changing her wardrobe is not enough. Can Louise pluck up the courage to take the real life lessons captured in the yellowing pages, and act upon them? And, finally, to leave behind Madame Dariaux and start to trust her own wisdom? An enchanting, bittersweet novel that will touch every woman who has ever longed for a fairy godmother.
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Born in Pittsburgh, Kathleen Tessaro studied drama at Carnegie-Mellon University before emigrating to London. After ten years working as an actress in films, television, and theatre, she left the profession and spent several years working for the English National Opera, while training in the evenings as a drama teacher and voice coach. During this time, she began to write. Working on short stories during her lunch hour, she soon became a regular member of the Wimpole Street Writers Workshop, a collection of women authors who meet every week. She is married and lives in North London. Elegance is her first novel.From Publishers Weekly:
A frumpy, depressed woman is reborn as an assertive diva in Tessaro's debut novel, thanks to a 40-year-old style manual she discovers in a second-hand bookstore. Louise Canova is an American woman from Pittsburgh who lives in London with her chilly actor husband. Louise once dabbled in acting herself, but now works at a theater box office. She's overweight, badly dressed, has purely platonic relations with her husband and is surrounded by more-glamorous-than-thou types-her friend Nicki, a former model; her mother-in-law, a former model and a socialite-who condescend to her. Everything changes, however, when Louise discovers Elegance, a fashion guide from 1964 written by Genevieve Dariaux, a legendary (and fictional) Coco Chanel-like arbiter of taste. Quoting liberally from the guidebook, Tessaro writes a lighthearted contemporary version of Pygmalion. In this case, Louise is her own Professor Higgins, and using Dariaux's amusingly anachronistic (is anyone wearing veils these days?) yet timeless advice ("being beautiful is no guarantee of happiness in this world"), she changes her appearance, her self-image and her entire life. The author introduces each chapter with a relevant excerpt from the manual. This structure sometimes seems a bit forced, especially when Louise's husband turns out to be gay (there is no worthwhile advice from Madam Dariaux on that situation), but on the whole the book is a lively, irresistible read.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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