The Dressmaker by Elizabeth Birkelund Oberbeck


It sounded like a typical Korean drama script on the jacket cover, except that it’s set in Paris instead of Seoul.
 
Claude is an old-fashioned tailor in a small town outside Paris. Age 40, he is separated from his wife for a few years. He falls in love for the first time with Valentine when she came into his shop to have her wedding dress designed and made by him. He feels the attraction is mutual, although she insists it’s only friendship with him she seeks. Her wedding dress becomes the talk of Paris and his infactuation with her becomes apparent to all. He moves to Paris and joins a design house just to be close to her. They meet often in fashion shows and art fairs, as she works as a curator in an art house with her husband. He sacrifices his freedom to be employed, subjecting himself to his boss’s demand and compromises his principle – does he make a dress for a client knowing it will not compliment her or lose his job? He tolerates interviews with reporters and all the PR work of a Parisian Couterier even though he is extremely shy, while missing his four nephews and pet parrot in his village. 
 
His wife returns, wanting the high life she has always envisioned when she married him. Then he learns that Valentine is pregnant and the baby is not his. Still he hopes. When Valentine’s husband loses his job and becomes abusive, would Valentine finally leaves him for Claude?
 
Within the first few chapters, I knew this book is a maiden’s work. The author tries too hard in her writing (like me!) and it did not feel natural (like Maeve Binchy). Too many metaphors were used unnecessarily in her descriptions.
 
He noticed the rounded cobblestones, resembling an elderly person’s yellow teeth. (hmmm…the color or the shape or both…teeth on the ground?)
 
Julliette (Claude’s sister) had a way of making imperfection perfect. Even the brown couch in the living room had the right amount of wear versus tear. (Can you imagine the couch? I can’t?)
 
Since the book is set in Paris, I would expect all the conversations to be in French, but translated into English. Yet, the speakers have the irritating habit of exclaiming in French and then followed by English. So were they speaking French or English? This would be more natural if the speaker is speaking in English originally and then exclaimed in French uncounsciously.
 
Examples are:
 
Claude, bienvenue! Come and have a drink. (Claude, Welcome!- courtesy of google translator.)
 
Joyeux anniversaire! Happy Birthday!
 
Allons-y, les garcons! (Come on, boys! – courtesy of google translator.)
 
I felt the inclusion of French exclaimation was really unnecessary, perhaps just to show off and quite troublesome for this non French speaker!
 
Also the book has no peaks and valleys. Readers just prod along with no expectation except to know if Claude and Valentine will end up together. Perhaps the author thought so too and decided to introduce the death of Claude’s nephew’s girlfriend at the last chapter. But since she arrives quite late in the book and is hardly mentioned, we are not moved.
 
Still, I must credit the author for her extensive description of clothes which she may have been knowlegeable or she has done her homework, although I may not agree with the designs described as good.
 
So…although the plot sounded promising, it did not live up to my expectation…like some of the recent Korean drama DVDs i bought. Sigh!
 
 
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About vickychong

Just an ordinary woman.
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