Saturday, March 5, 2011
I picked up Elegance by Kathleen Tessaro from the library primarily to help me fulfill one of the Take a Chance 3 Challenge requirements. This is a book about Louise Canova--thirty-something, unhappy with her looks, her life and her marriage. She comes across a book called Elegance in a secondhand bookshop that she thinks will be the answer to her prayers. This slim volume was written by the French fashion expert Madame Dariaux in the 1960s and Louise starts taking the A-Z guide to heart--changing first her wardrobe and then her attitudes. The back of the book promises that "within its pages lie not only clues from her past, but also powerful lessons for the future. And as the old Louise gives way to the stunning new, she's about to find out that there's more to every life than what appears on the surface...and that everything, even elegance has a price."
I had a love-hate relationship with this book. It has a stunning premise. I loved the idea of Louise reforming herself by using an out-of-date fashion manual as her guide. It starts out well, but just doesn't deliver. By the end of the book, the reader should be cheering for Louise as she finally transforms herself, not just in appearance but in her willingness to take a chance on a new relationship. I felt more like the Droopy character in cartoons--an Eeyore-like dog, who always looks depressed and waves a little flag that say "Rah" and says "Hurray" in the most down-trodden voice. No real enthusiasm.
There are several redeeming episodes in the book--Louise's visit to the country house home of her friend Flora and when she serves a Christmas meal to the homeless, for example, but over all her trials and tribulations as she makes her transformations just got on my nerves. A quick read, fortunately, that was not nearly as entertaining as anticipated. On the other hand, I tend to think a book must have been pretty decent if I am able to cull any good quotations from it. And I did. So...as I said, I'm left with a love-hate feeling at the end of the book. Two and a half stars--for the premise, for the beginning, for the few redeeming episodes and the quotes.