Girl in Dior by Annie Goetzinger

Girl in Dior by Annie Goetzinger is a graphic biographical novel about Mr. Dior and his eponymous fashion label, House of Dior. Originally published in French, it was translated into English in 2015.

The first Dior fashion show took place in 1947 in Paris. The story is told through Clara, a fictional character. The reader experiences, through Clara’s eyes, the very first Dior fashion show. This is where the world was first introduced to the “New Look.” The story doesn’t gloss over how controversial the New Look was. With war and austerity now behind France, Dior created feminine, waist-cinching skirts and dresses that reached down to the ankles. Women, however, didn’t want to go back to wearing longer dresses. They liked their short dresses just fine. But Dior, through his passion and a vision for a new post-war ideal, persevered and made his fashion house a success.

Clara also introduces the reader to the House of Dior and Dior’s “muses.” Though Clara is a fashion journalist, she soon quits her job to become one of Dior’s muses. This was a clever ploy because Clara and Dior become confidantes. This dynamic gives the reader a glimpse into the intimate details of the House of Dior and inside the mind of Dior himself. It worked because I found myself feeling sad for Dior’s lonely state since his wife’s passing. I saw him as a human, not just a famous fashion designer.

The book takes the reader from that very first show to the end of Mr. Dior’s life in 1957. It’s a very touching tribute to fashion and to the elegance that continues to be the House of Dior. In fact, I would describe this book as a love letter to fashion. If you are a fashionista or a lover of the history of fashion, then you’ll appreciate this book because the drawings of the dresses are sumptuous. Annie Goetzinger didn’t just write the novel, she also illustrated it.

I have one criticism about this book. Clara is a one-dimensional character. She lacks depth and has no strong feelings about anything. She quits her job, works for Mr. Dior, marries a rich man, quits her job again, spends time conversing with Mr. Dior, and so on. I think Clara’s sole purpose was to narrate the story of Mr. Dior. If you read the story knowing this, then you’ll be fine. Just don’t expect her to be multi-faceted, like heroines of other novels. That said, this is a charming book and it might help us, for just a few minutes, to get our minds off the troubling times we are living through.

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Mr. Dior and his models.

xoxo, Jane

Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik

There is a lot to love about Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik. To begin with, I adore the title. Paris to the Moon evokes something romantic from an old, bygone Paris. I love that the collection of essays are set in Paris. I also love that the essays are thoughtful, witty and, at-times, laugh-out-loud funny. I felt compelled to read many passages to my husband, much to his annoyance. “Yes, I know, he lives in Paris,” he’d say when I prefaced another out-loud reading with a “This writer who lives in Paris…”

I was drawn to this book for two reasons. It’s a collection of essays about living in Paris and I’m fascinated by the nuances of everyday Parisian life. But also because it’s written by a writer who manages to write full-time and support his family from his writing. I’m always interested in reading and learning more about that elusive, modern-day full-time writer.

Adam Gopnik moved to Paris with his wife and young son in the late 1990s. This book of essays is the culmination of his experience living there. He does not sugarcoat living in Paris, but even with the French bureaucracy and dossiers (you’ll have to read the book to understand why dossiers come up quite often), he loves living there with his family and I found it charming that he refers to his newborn daughter as their “French child.” Their son Luke, born in NY, is their “New York child.”

I should also mention that all of these essays were originally published in The New Yorker before they were compiled in this book.

My favorite essay is the one where he describes the fashion shows. I devoured the pages hoping for more essays on fashion, alas it was not to be. Instead I got essays on sports. Which, quite frankly, bored me to tears. What can I say, I like what I like.

When the author wrote about French cuisine, I felt pangs of hunger. I’m not sure if that was the author’s ultimate goal, but I immediately told my husband we’d be having something French for dinner. And I laughed out loud (again) when he compares the children’s figure Barney to President Clinton. The essays were full of unexpected thoughts and surprises about living in Paris.

All in all, this is an excellent book. Should you read it? I would say, read it only if you are truly interested in the nuances of everyday life as an American in Paris.

xoxo, Jane

Four Books Set in London

Who doesn’t love a literary walk through London? Now that summer is slowly coming to an end, let’s talk about books that make for perfect fall reading.

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Jemima J: A Novel About Ugly Ducklings and Swans by Jane Green

Jemima J was the very first book I ever read by Jane Green way back when. This book is an oldie (Hello, 2001, I’ve missed you) but such a goodie! It’s a charming story about a Londoner, Jemima. She is overweight and bullied by everyone around her because of it. When Jemima meets a handsome Californian, Brad, over the internet, she quickly re-invents herself as JJ, a sexy, thin, and glamorous girl. But then of course Brad insists on meeting JJ and that’s when the fun and misadventures begin. I think the story held up really well over the years.

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Belgravia by Julian Fellowes

I enjoyed reading Belgravia so much that when it ended I hugged the book. It’s set in London (specifically, a newly-created Belgravia) and follows the destinies of two British families. One family is newly rich and the other family is “old money.” Something happens (I can’t give it away as it will ruin the story for you) that forces the two families to intertwine with each other, much to the disdain of the “old money” family. It’s funny, heart-warming and fun to read. It really should be adapted for TV. I think the best part about this book is that Belgravia is a main character.

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Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs is the first book in a series about a private detective set in London. Since this is the first book in the series, it introduces us to Maisie’s present and to her past. In her present, she tries to uncover a horrible secret involving veterans of the Great War. In her past, we learn that she herself is a veteran of the war. She worked as a nurse in the trenches of World War I. We have vivid flashbacks of her nursing days in the trenches. I must say, I’ve read lots of stories set in the trenches of World War I, but this is the only book where the scenes jumped out at me. I could actually visualize Maisie’s blood-soaked dress hems. If you are looking for a new mystery/detective series, with a witty female protagonist, then please start here.

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Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding

Was this the book that started the “chick lit” genre? I don’t know, but what I do know is that it was crazy enjoyable to read. It also made me fall in love with this type of story (single, living in a big city, job problems, guy problems, happy ending). Just like the title conveys, this book is written diary-style over the course of one year. Bridget writes about her dreams and desires, her weight issues, her guy problems… It’s really hilarious! Highly recommended!

Do you have any favorite books set in London? xoxo, Jane

Also, four books set in Paris.

xoxo, Jane

Pairing books with tea (Désirée)

Désirée by Annemarie Selinko is a novel based on real events as recounted by one woman, Désirée Clary. It’s an epic, fictionalized biography of Désirée, the one-time fiancée of Napoleon. (I very briefly talked about this book here.)

Clary

Désirée lived a very interesting life through some turbulent times in France. She began life as the daughter of a silk merchant and ended her life as the Queen of Sweden.

After Napoleon broke her heart to marry Josephine, Désirée moved on by marrying the tall and dashing Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, a decorated Marshal in Napoleon’s court.

Through her marriage to Bernadotte, Désirée became Queen of Sweden because Sweden picked Bernadotte as their next king. Bernadotte reigned as Charles XIV of Sweden. (Talk about the ultimate get-over-him plan. Ladies, next time a guy breaks your heart, marry a king!)

This part isn’t in the book, but Napoleon hoped that Bernadotte would enact Swedish laws that favored France. Much to the anger and dismay of Napoleon, Bernadotte refused to be a puppet king. He even used his personal fortune to pay Sweden’s national debt. (As an aside, the illustrious Bernadotte line continues to reign in Sweden today.)

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Désirée Clary, 1807. Wikimedia Commons

The book is completely engrossing and written entirely in the form of diary entries. It’s a mixture of historical fiction and historical gossip sessions. Désirée is completely relatable even though it’s nearly impossible to relate to a young, rich French socialite. I think her diary entries (her gossip rants, her worries, her funny anecdotes, her undying devotion to her child) make her endearing to the reader.

Also, Paris is very much a main character in this book (before the move to Stockholm, that is) and her diary entries are sprinkled with Parisian locales and addresses. Of course, the book was made into a movie. Marlon Brando played Napoleon.

Laduree Tea

I think the perfect tea for this book is by Ladurée. Ladurée is a decadent Parisian tea and Désirée, for her entire life, loved everything Parisian. I think Désirée would approve of this pairing. You can take the girl out of Paris, but you can’t take Paris out of the girl.

What do you think of this tea pairing?

xoxo, Jane

PS. In case you feel like going down a rabbit hole, my other posts in this series can be found here.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links. xoxo, Jane

Four Books Set In Paris

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View of the Louvre, February 2017

I love Paris!

Actually, I love all of France, but let’s focus on Paris. Paris is my favorite travel destination. I love the food, the people, the language, the museums, the cobbled sidewalks, the fashion, the boutiques….I could go on and on.

Because of my job and other obligations, I can’t travel there as much as I would like. Just once every other year or so. But in the meantime, I like to read books that feature Paris.

Paris is always a good idea.

Here are a few books that are set (or partly set) in Paris:

Desiree by Annemarie Selinko. This book is a saga of a love trilogy. It’s a fictionalized account of Napolean’s ex-fiancée, Désirée Clary, who went on to become the Queen of Sweden. I love this novel! It’s written in the form of diary entries, it’s fun, romantic and adventurous. There was also a movie based on this book and Napoleon was played by Marlon Brando.

Solitaire by Jane Thynne. This is the fifth book in the Clara Vine series. It’s a gripping spy drama set in Nazi Germany. Clara Vine, an Anglo-German actress, lives in Nazi Germany undercover and spies for British Intelligence. It’s riveting. In this installment, Clara’s work takes her to 1940s Paris.

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Photo by Frank Zienert on Pexels.com

Love from Paris by Alexandra Potter. This book was a delightful, frothy read. Our heroine, Ruby, travels to Paris where she stumbles upon a mysterious old apartment. She goes on to do some sleuthing and makes a stunning discovery. I assume this story was partly inspired by the real life story of this Paris apartment.

Barefood in Paris by Ina Garten. I love this cookbook. It’s one of my favorites. I’ve tried a good number of her recipes from this book and they’ve all come out delicious. The book includes plenty of anecdotes about her time in Paris. Ina also shares with us her list of Parisian stores for kitchen and cooking-related shopping.

If you have any favorite books set in Paris, I’d love to know! xoxo, Jane

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links, but it’s also ok if you don’t use the links. I’m just grateful you are here and reading my blog. xoxo, Jane