From Publishers Weekly
Setting her second novel among the glamorous couture houses of post-WWI Paris, Diliberto (I Am Madame X
) delves into a Europe inching its way back to caring about fashion. Following the death of her fiancé and family, fictitious 22-year-old seamstress Isabelle Varlet leaves her provincial town in 1919 and takes a low-level job working for Gabrielle Coco Chanel, joining a gaggle of young women sewing until their fingers bleed to serve Mademoiselle in preparation for the upcoming fall collection. Dresses are depicted in magnificent detail; fellow couturiers Madeleine Vionnet and Jean Patou are vibrant and alive, and Diliberto even incorporates period fashion journalism. Still, Isabelle, on a frustrating run of bad luck, proves a bit of a snore—she's an orphan, she falls ill and loses her job, her workroom is robbed. And her love story with poet Daniel Blank feels forced. Chanel, however, is another story: with her married lovers and fiery arrogance, Mademoiselle is the true star of the book; each moment she's on the page is sheer pleasure, much like fine couture. (Sept.)
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"Instead of dying, I learned how to sew." At nine, Isabelle Varlet is wasting away with tuberculosis until her grandmother hands her some fabric and a needle and teaches her how to sew. Recovering quickly, she promptly learns all she can. When she grows up, she goes to work in a dress shop in her small French village. In 1919, amazed at her talent, the mistress of the shop encourages her to head to Paris, where Isabelle goes to work in the studio of Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel. Isabelle endures Chanel's outrageous perfectionism and time demands and the spoiled "darlings" who are her customers, as well as the cutthroat competition in the workroom. When not working, she encounters the seamier side of society at Jazz Age parties and night clubs. This novel is filled with inside information on haute couture and the designers who heralded in a new age of fashion. There is plenty of intrigue, pathos, romance, and even some sewing tips, as well as multifaceted characters. Definitely entertaining. Dickie, Elizabeth