I really, really wanted to read something good after the previous book and The Dressmaker’s Gift by Fiona Valpy definitely did not disappoint. I loved it.
I am particularly drawn to books about the Second World War and those men and women who risked their lives as part of the Resistance in various countries. I am interested in how people act in times of serious stress and disaster and what makes some brave beyond measure.
I’d not heard of Fiona Valpy (sorry Fiona) but I will certainly look out for more of her work. She is a bestselling author and has 11 published novels with another due out this year (2023). It was published in 2019 and runs to a respectable 276 pages.
The Dressmaker’s Gift switches back and forwards between present day (2017) and the early 1940s.
In Paris in 1904 three seamstresses are working together in a fashion house and living in a tiny flat above the business. Mireille fights with the Resistance, Claire has a relationship with a German officer and Vivienne can’t tell her friends what she is up to.
The three of them are vital to the French Resistance’s efforts in Paris… until Claire and Vivienne are picked up by the Gestapo.
In the present day Claire’s granddaughter Harriet comes to Paris to find out more about the three women after discovering a photograph of them. She begins working as an intern in the very building her grandmother worked in and (this was the only bit I thought a little far-fetched) Sophie, Mireille’s granddaughter is (coincidentally) also working there. Sophie is able to tell Harriet some of her grandmother’s story.
Harriet’s mother committed suicide when she was a child and Harriet has not got over it so that runs as another strand to this story of bravery, honour, friendship and generational guilt.
I was transported back in time with this novel and the descriptions of this incredible city under Nazi occupation. I also loved the details of the profession and the fashion world during that time.
I will read any book about the French Resistance and the foreign spies who helped them throughout the war and huge risk – the survival rate was not great.
One of the things I enjoyed about this was that there wasn’t a cast of government and military characters, our three heroines were ordinary girls doing ordinary jobs at the lower end of the Resistance ladder but they were still putting their lives on the line and their work was vital.
The plot plays out beautifully weaving together both the timelines and the strands of the story with care.
I really enjoyed this and will certainly keeping my eyes out for more of Valpy’s historical novels.