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

3.7 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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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.
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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: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,772,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Amazon Customer 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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By JuMarCh on December 10, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I loved this book. The heroine isn't perfect, but isn't tragic either. A great ending even if all the loose ends aren't tied up because that is how real life goes. A fascinating look at life both in the prairie and in new Hollywood at the turn of the century. One of my favorite books this year. I will be checking out more of what the author has written!
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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed the is in - depth story that covers 25 Yeats, thousands of I didn't give it 5 stars because of the ending. . She seems to have gotten to the point where she knew it had to end but couldn't figure out how to end it. The final scene and ending just didn't work for me. However, it was a great read most of the way through.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was such a wonderful story to read. I enjoyed the main character, Nell, so much, even though she certainly was not the wife, or the mother of the year!

However, I do agree with some of my fellow readers' reviews..I was very disappointed in the ending. It left me very confused.
Christine Schulz
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By NJY on November 21, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I love this story and really couldn't put this down. I sew so it was very interesting to me to hear all about the fabrics and techniques used. I think the ending left me hang a little as the author didn't really go into what became of them later on, especially her two daughters.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This is a mish mash mess of a book, with so many unformed ideas and characters that its like a bowl of loose Jello.I have read countless well written books.I have also read some badly written ones with no excuse for their existence, this is one of them.
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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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