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The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard: A Novel Hardcover – August 1, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (August 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618386289
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618386284
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,376,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Unfortunately for Nell Plat, the heroine of Erin McGraw's immersive fifth book (after The Good Life), she is a whiz with a needle, but a failure in the kitchen. While she makes a name for herself sewing dresses in early 20th-century Grant Station, Kans., her lack of kitchen prowess is crippling to her marriage, prompting her to leave her husband and two daughters for Hollywood, where with the help of a French grammar book, she becomes Madame Annelle, modiste to the fine ladies of Pasadena. She marries oilman George Curran, and has another daughter, Mary. Just as she realizes her dream, cutting fabric alongside an established and very esteemed seamstress, her past arrives on her doorstep in the form of her two grown daughters, flappers who call themselves Lisette and Aimée in an attempt at the sophistication they hope will land them in the movies. Nell claims them as her sisters, but the lie only delays the unraveling of her California dream. Inspired by her grandmother's story, McGraw captures the lonely rigor of life on the plains and the invigorating lure of reinvention. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Unfortunately for Nell Plat, the heroine of Erin McGraw's immersive fifth book (after The Good Life), she is a whiz with a needle, but a failure in the kitchen. While she makes a name for herself sewing dresses in early 20th-century Grant Station, Kans., her lack of kitchen prowess is crippling to her marriage, prompting her to leave her husband and two daughters for Hollywood, where with the help of a French grammar book, she becomes Madame Annelle, modiste to the fine ladies of Pasadena. She marries oilman George Curran, and has another daughter, Mary. Just as she realizes her dream, cutting fabric alongside an established and very esteemed seamstress, her past arrives on her doorstep in the form of her two grown daughters, flappers who call themselves Lisette and Aimée in an attempt at the sophistication they hope will land them in the movies. Nell claims them as her sisters, but the lie only delays the unraveling of her California dream. Inspired by her grandmother's story, McGraw captures the lonely rigor of life on the plains and the invigorating lure of reinvention. (Publishers Weekly ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Born and raised in southern California, Erin McGraw has spent most of her adult life living in and writing about the Midwest. Only in her most recent two novels has she gone back to her birth place, exploring the lives made possible by all that coastline and sunshine. She shares her life with her husband, the poet and essayist Andrew Hudgins, and their rotating cast of dogs. They divide their time between Columbus, Ohio, where she teaches in the MFA program at the Ohio State University, and Sewanee, Tennessee.

Customer Reviews

This book gives you a lift and makes you want to jump to your sewing machine!
Sonja N. Casey
Nell is a great character in that she's incredibly flawed throughout the entire novel, and yet still manages to evoke sympathy from the reader.
Melissa Niksic
I started this book a few days ago and thought with all I have to do, I would read it leisurely, only a chapter a day.
Mary McCleary

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on October 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's rare that a novel which is considered "literary" is also a page-turner, but The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard definitely fits this bill. I finished this novel in just a couple of days because the main character seems so real. McGraw makes you feel as if you stepped inside Nell Plat's skin as she makes her harrowing life choices. Who wouldn't want to leave a hardscrabble Kansas farm for the bright lights of Hollywood? Nell's efforts at reinvention are more riveting than Madonna's, but this is no easy fairy tale, and her every move comes back to haunt her--especially when her abandoned daughters arrive at her doorstep! My only wish is that Nell could have attended at least one Hollywood premier, and that we, as readers, could have seen her tailor the costumes of some of the stars of her day, like Clara Bow or Errol Flynn. I would have loved to have seen Nell's reaction to the reality behind all the glitter! But no matter--stitch for stitch, The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard is a wonderful examination of our Amerian urge for self-determination, even when that means you have to wing it a little . . .
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Melissa Niksic VINE VOICE on August 30, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book really wasn't anything like I thought it would be, but I still enjoyed it immensely. Based on the title, I thought "The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard" would detail the life of a small-time farm girl who grows up to make glamorous costumes for some of America's brightest stars. The book is kind of about that, but it's more about Nell Plat's lifetime journey towards self-discovery. A frustrated young Kansas farm wife, Nell abandons her husband and two young daughters to build a new life for herself as a seamstress in California. Being a single gal on her own is tough at the turn of the century, but Nell perseveres and manages to achieve personal and professional fulfillment. Years later, her past comes a-knockin' at her front door, and the wonderful life Nell has built for herself threatens to come crashing down.

I very much enjoyed this book. Nell is a great character in that she's incredibly flawed throughout the entire novel, and yet still manages to evoke sympathy from the reader. I was captivated by this book until the very end, and although the ending felt kind of rushed and was left pretty open-ended (which I hate), I still recommend this book highly to everyone.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Brandt on September 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book was a welcome surprise to me. I loved it! I have never read this author's work before but now I want to read her other books. The story was engaging and pulled me in from the start. I enjoyed the rhythm of the writing and found the old Kansas farm dialect and characters completely believable. Fast forward to Hollywood and once again I wholly believed in the character - her mannerisms, speech, behaviors, decisions. Later in the book, after a lifechanging event happens to the main character, I had to make myself slow my reading - I naturally sped up because I couldn't wait to see what would happen next. I was sure that with each turn of the page something scandalous or shocking would happen. When subsequent major events occurred, I wasn't disappointed. I finished the book yesterday but find myself still thinking about it at work this morning. I definitely recommend this book!
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Format: Hardcover
The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard was a great historical novel based on the life of the author's grandmother.

From the book...."I couldn't cook, but I could sew. It would have been better the other way around."

At the turn of the 20th century, Nell is just a young teenager when she marries a rancher, moves in with her in-laws and soon after has two little girls -all within a couple of years. Nell is depressed and unhappy with her life in Kansas, but she has no one to share her feelings with. She convinces her husband to let her have a sewing machine, so she can have a creative outlet.

She finds that she has real talent, and she begins to earn some money sewing beautiful dresses for wealthy women in the area. She quickly finds sewing is her passion, not cooking, cleaning, and mothering her daughters. She puts the money she earns from sewing dresses away, and dreams about a different and more exciting life.

Before long her mother-in-law begins to interfere, and her husband begins to criticize her mothering skills. Nell is infuriated when Jack also sells her sewing machine. So much so that she leaves her husband, young daughters, and the mother-in-law in Kansas and heads for California.

In California Nell begins a new life. She works as a shop girl and soon begins sewing again for wealthy clients, and then for the motion picture industry. Nell remarries and she neglects to tell her new husband about her past. She even has another child. Nell can run, but she cannot hide, soon her past catches up with her.

I enjoyed the character of Nell very much, and it was interesting reading about Hollywood in the early 20th century. I did have a bit of a problem with the ending as I think it seemed unrealistic given the time when this novel was to have taken place. I won't elaborate as I do not want to give away the ending. All in all it was still an enjoyable read.
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By H. Cho on February 11, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
But if most readers desire the roller coaster ride rather than perfect word choices, interesting turns of phrases and a pitch-perfect voice, probably won't happen. I was amazed that I kept turning page after page when "nothing" seemed to ever happen; even leaving her very young children to run away to California is handled in such an even-keeled way there was no rising music to accompany the heart-wrenching moment. The only time I felt my feet held to the fire was when her older daughter tells the story of a mother who runs away from home without her husband realizing this is the story of his wife. I'm not sure what to make of this lack of need to grab the spotlight but no doubts about its literary value nor its ability to keep me turning pages all the way to the end. BRAVO!
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