The Last Collection by Jeanne Mackin: Paris, 1938. Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli (‘Schiap’) are fighting for recognition as the most successful and influential fashion designer in France, and their rivalry is already legendary. They oppose each other at every turn, in both their politics and their designs: Chanel’s are classic, elegant, and practical; Schiaparelli’s bold, experimental, and surreal. When Lily Sutter, a recently widowed American teacher, travels to Paris to visit her brother, Charlie, he insists on buying her a couture dress for her birthday – a Chanel. Lily reluctantly agrees but wants a Schiaparelli, not a Chanel.
I was completely immersed in this novel. The combination of fashion, drama, and history is perfectly balanced and the descriptions of Paris are vibrant and utterly seductive. I love that Mackin is completely honest about these women. She doesn’t hide their shortcomings and faults and she doesn’t use revisionist history. It’s glamorous but terrible and riveting but ugly.
Nightingale Point by Luan Goldie (Kindle): I heard this discussed on the Radio 2 Book Club and was intrigued. On an ordinary Saturday morning in 1996, the residents of Nightingale Point wake up to their normal lives and worries. It’s a day like any other, until something extraordinary happens. When the sun sets, Nightingale Point is irrevocably changed and somehow, through the darkness, the residents must find a way back to lightness, and back to each other.
The idea for the novel came from a real-life incident in The Netherlands and readers should be prepared to be shocked.
Death and Other Happy Endings by Melanie Cantor: Jennifer Cole has just been told that she has three months to live — ninety days to say goodbye and put her affairs in order. Trying to focus on the positives she realises she has one overriding regret: the words she’s left unsaid. So Jennifer writes letters to three significant people in her life: her overbearing, selfish sister, her spineless, cheating ex-husband, and her charming, unreliable ex-boyfriend finally telling them the things she’s always wanted to say but never dared. At first, she feels liberated. But once you start telling the truth, it’s hard to stop. And, as she soon discovers, the truth isn’t always what it seems. Death has a way of surprising you …
I loved, loved, loved this novel in a way that I didn’t expect to. I enjoyed the style of Cantor’s writing and her observations of human relationships were both funny and bittersweet. And let’s not forget the letter writing. My copy now has several highlighted passages.