Friday, 20 July 2018

The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag

Tucked away on a winding Cambridge street, Etta's tiny dress store appears quite ordinary to passers-by, but the colourfully vibrant racks of beaded silks and jewel-toned velvets hold bewitching secrets: with just a few stitches from Etta's needle, these gorgeous gowns have the power to free a woman's deepest desires. Etta's granddaughter, Cora Sparks, has spent her life hidden away in the safety of the little shop and her university lab, ever since her parents' mysterious deaths many years ago.

Cora's studious, unromantic eye has overlooked Walt, the shy bookseller who has been in love with her for years. Determined not to let Cora miss her chance at happiness, Etta sets in motion a series of astonishing events that will transform Cora's life in extraordinary and unexpected ways.

This has been a delightful read although was not the book I was expecting. As a needlewoman, I am always attracted to fiction that involves dressmaking and I was instantly drawn to the cover on this book as it suggested the light read I was looking for. On one hand, that was exactly what this book provided along with a little magical realism. However, there is a darker and more gripping thread (pardon the pun) running through this which elevated this to a higher level of storytelling and made the story much more involved.

The characters are well drawn and I enjoyed reading about Cora, Walt and Etta. All are enchanting personalities in their own way.

There is a lovely blend of mystery, romance and magical realism in this book and they come together to provide an entertaining novel. It defies being categorised into one particular genre although I think the marketing of the cover and the blurb has attempted to do so.

I am definitely keen to read more by this author and I think she will appeal to many readers. Have you read any of her books? I would love to hear your thoughts on which I should read next.

About the Author:

In her own words:

"I’ve worked as a reader for BBC Films & TV and as a script editor for a number of independent production companies. I still work as a freelance script editor/consultant. I self-published my novella, Men, Money and Chocolate. Nine months later I sold it to Hay House and today it’s been translated into 26 languages – so far. The sequel, Happier Than She's Ever Been, followed a year later.

The House at the End of Hope Street was published by Penguin in 2013. Random House published The Dress Shop of Dreams (Jan, 2015) and will publish The Witches of Cambridge (Feb, 2016). Allison & Busby have published all three novels in the UK. I’m currently working on my new novel, The Three Acts of Aubrey H. Gagné."

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