A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolf is not the typical book that I would pick up and read. It caught my eye because it was about vintage clothing. In fact, I didn’t pick it up and read it in paperback or hardback form; rather, I read it on my Nook.
The title made it sound like a book about a love story, which it partially is, but it’s more a book about the intense friendships formed between woman during the best and worst times.
We first meet Phoebe through a flashback to her meeting with her very
best friend, Emma. The two grow up together in England and become well respected in their prospective fashion fields; Emma as a milliner and Phoebe as a vintage clothes buyer for Sotheby’s, and later owner of her own shop, Village Vintage, in Blackheath; a swanky section of London.
The thing about this book that I really enjoy is the interweaving of plots and its dynamic characters. I wouldn’t say that the book moves quickly, but I enjoyed the slower pace and the sketched out characters. The attention to detail in the descriptions of the vintage apparel was lovely and well researched.
Partway through the book, Emma dies quite tragically and Phoebe sees herself as to blame for it. In her misery and grief, she leaves her Sotheby’s job and pursues opening her own shop. Part of the duties of owning a vintage clothing store is finding merchandise. To that end, she travels to France, and sometimes around England.
On one of her many purchasing trips, she meets Mrs. Bell, whose wardrobe she goes through to select the best pieces. Mrs. Bell is in her eighties, and explains that she has no need of most of the things, but that Phoebe is not to touch a certain child’s blue wool jacket that hangs behind the other beautiful clothing.
Why would an 80 year old woman have a child’s handmade wool jacket hanging in her closet when she has no children and no known grandchildren? Why does Mrs. Bell talk so little about her past but seem so interested in Phoebe’s lost friendship with Emma?
The little blue jacket is one of a few of the interesting bits that run throughout this beautiful little book. There are romance, intrigue, World War II concentration camp, and friendship stories that will move you. I am planning to read more of Isabel Wolff’s books in the near future.