Thursday, July 9, 2009

Book Review-Elegance by Kathleen Tessaro

From Publishers Weekly
A frumpy, depressed woman is reborn as an assertive diva in Tessaro's debut novel, thanks to a 40-year-old style manual she discovers in a second-hand bookstore. Louise Canova is an American woman from Pittsburgh who lives in London with her chilly actor husband. Louise once dabbled in acting herself, but now works at a theater box office. She's overweight, badly dressed, has purely platonic relations with her husband and is surrounded by more-glamorous-than-thou types-her friend Nicki, a former model; her mother-in-law, a former model and a socialite-who condescend to her. Everything changes, however, when Louise discovers Elegance, a fashion guide from 1964 written by Genevieve Dariaux, a legendary (and fictional) Coco Chanel-like arbiter of taste. Quoting liberally from the guidebook, Tessaro writes a lighthearted contemporary version of Pygmalion. In this case, Louise is her own Professor Higgins, and using Dariaux's amusingly anachronistic (is anyone wearing veils these days?) yet timeless advice ("being beautiful is no guarantee of happiness in this world"), she changes her appearance, her self-image and her entire life. The author introduces each chapter with a relevant excerpt from the manual. This structure sometimes seems a bit forced, especially when Louise's husband turns out to be gay (there is no worthwhile advice from Madam Dariaux on that situation), but on the whole the book is a lively, irresistible read.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

I read about Elegance on Stacked during the 24 hour Read a Thon. I haven't read any chick lit in a while so I was excited to read this one.
In my opinion, all chick lit should take place in England. It's so much more fun that away. I love hearing about London and what it's like to live there. I doubt life is really like it is in the books but I love to imagine it is!
I liked Loise immediately. She's let herself go. Part of it that her husband doesn't care how she dresses and part of it is that she doesn't care herself. But she comes across A Guide To Elegance by Genevieve Dariaux, a book I have on my tbr list. She uses the book to change her life. Well that's her purpose but she usually doesn't follow the advice of the book. She goes off on her own and winds up wishing she would have followed the books advice.
I also loved Louise's friends. She goes to live with Colin and Ria when she leaves her husband. They provide some good advice and some comic relief. Her coworkers help her navigate British society.
In the end this is great chick lit. There are parts I cringed, parts I laughed, and parts that made me teary. Recommended.
Other reviews can be found at Pug Notions & Kitty Convictions, Smithereens, and the Savvy Reader has a Q&A with Tessaro about the book.


  1. I think I must check it out then :)
    And yes chick-lit must take place in England, it makes it so funnier

  2. Oh I'll have to read this! Sounds like a good book!

  3. I like the way you think Linda!! i agree...all chick-lit should take place in London!! Sounds like a great read and one that I'm interested in for sure!!

  4. Sounds like one I should definitely check out; thanks for the rec!

    And I completely agree: chick-lit seemed to originate in London and it just seems better when it stays there! (Not that I'm partial or anything...) :-)

  5. You're so right! Chick-lit is always better when set in England!! I think it has to do with their funny little sayings and slang. Also, I have a dry sense of humor, so I tend to really enjoy British humor.

    Sounds like a great book! I'll have to check it out myself! (I know it's not a mystery, but I like a good chick-lit book!)


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