Tuesday, 12 May 2015

"The Dress" by Kate Kerrigan.



I received an ARC of this title in return for an honest review...

1950s New York and one of the most beautiful women in the city is on the hunt for a dress.  Not just any dress, one that is unique, alluring and awe inspiring.  The hope is that the right dress could save her marriage.  For Joy, beauty has always been part of her life.  Blessed with looks, money and breeding, life has always been plain sailing.  But lately things are not as straight forward.  She finds herself needing a drink to help her get through the day, finds the walls of her fifth avenue home closing in around her and her husband drifting away for no obvious reason.  A chance encounter with a talented young designer sets a plan in motion.  The perfect party, the perfect dress and the return to the perfect marriage.  
Meanwhile, unknown Irish seamstress, Honor, struggles to believe in her talent.  She knows she can design and create, but is it enough for the high-maintenance socialite?  Can she produce a dress so exquisite that it could change Joy's life? Or even her own?  Thousands of dollars are spent as the two women pin their hopes on the dream of the perfect dress...

This is Kate Kerrigan's first novel with Head of Zeus and what a way to kick off!  Using her talent for writing historical fiction, and blending it with a current timeline, this novel is pitched perfectly for the reader who wishes to escape to another world.  There are actually a few worlds rolled into the this; 1950s New York, 1930s Ireland, Present day London, Miami and Ireland, all with their own tales to tale.  Lily is a vintage fashion blogger and while researching images for her blog, she stumbles across a photo of Joy in an outstanding, intricate dress which blows the blogger's mind.  As the woman also has the same surname, Lily delves some more and discovers they are loosely related.  The photo inspires Lily to dust down her dressmaking equipment and re-create the dress.  
The narrative shifts from time and location with ease and there is a softness about the overall story that remains throughout.  While there are plenty of design and dress making moments in the novel, it is written in such a way that the reader is not overloaded.  The big selling point of  The Dress is very simple: imagination.  The descriptions of New York in its Hey Day, the dresses, the dinner parties, the cocktail hours and the need for a drinks cabinet in the drawing room.  Those days may be long gone, along with women's unequal status (for the most), but that doesn't mean we can't slip into these women's marabou slippers, and lives, for a bit.  Look at the success of  the TV show, Mad Men.  Don Draper and fashion to die for. Simple.  The imagination is also used to bring us on fashion shoots in 2014 Miami and lace-hunting trips to rural Ireland.  Lily has a part to play in all  of this, but it is Joy and Honor who remain to the forefront.  Two very different women, from immensely different backgrounds, they somehow find solace in each other's company and form a special bond while creating the masterpiece.  But what happens when it's finished?  Can their friendship withstand the aftermath? 

This is women's fiction at its finest.  The writing is flawless, flows nicely and has a perfect pace.  The past links well with the present and the overall package is finely crafted.  A stunning cover is sure to call out to many from the shelves of bookshops everywhere,in September (when it is released in hardback) and no doubt will be downloaded to many an e-reader this summer.  For anyone who has gazed longingly at the pages of Vogue, drooled over the costumes in period dramas or wondered what rich socialites in Manhattan really did all day, this is for you.  A fusion of fashion and feeling... 

The Dress is published by Head of Zeus in ebook format on 1st July 2015 and in hardback on 10th September 2015.  

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