|book review | October/November 2016
Try this stylish reading selection on for size
by Elizabeth Jacobs
Nine Women, One Dress
By Jane L. Rosen
New York: Doubleday (2016)
The "it" dress of the season is the link between the female characters featured in this fast-paced novel. The One Dress of the title is a single little black dress from Bloomingdale's, which makes its way from one woman to the next, playing a life-changing role for each one along the way. From the nervous, first-time runway model who first wears the dress, to the Bloomingdale's saleswoman who wears it on an impromptu date with a famous actor, to an unemployed young college graduate desperately faking the perfect life on social media, and on to several others, the dress helps these women find love, purpose, a deeper sense of self, or in some way brings them to the fate they ultimately deserve.
The narrative shifts from the first person point of view of one character to another in short two to four-page chapters. Some of the characters are featured throughout the story, and others appear for only a short time and then are not heard from again. This structure keeps the story light and easy to read, but does not allow room for much character development or emotional depth. In spite of this slight shortcoming, the story remains engaging, and readers will find themselves cheering the heroines as they jump into new experiences and new chapters of their lives.
At its heart, Nine Women, One Dress is a classic romantic comedy, where everyone gets their happy ending. If you're a fan of the movie Love, Actually, you'll definitely want to put this one on your reading list.
Grace & Style: the Art of Pretending You Have It
By Grace Helbig
New York: Touchstone (2016)
If you're looking for a serious guide to developing your personal style, this is not the book for you. But if you believe strongly in the fashion merits of sweatpants and that wardrobe malfunctions are a normal part of life, then read on! YouTube personality and comedian Grace Helbig makes no claims of being a style expert, but she brings a fantastic sense of humor to a subject that many tend to take very seriously. This book is one-half light-hearted discussion of Helbig's own personal style, and one-half absurd, sarcastic parody of a serious style guide, that the author herself refers to as a "thought-swamp of senselessness."
Some of the funniest parts of the book are some of the most personal. Helbig tells stories of her experiences and mishaps with fashion throughout her life, and even includes photos of herself and her actual clothes to illustrate. These stories are interspersed with humorous lists, quotes and advice, diary entries written from the point of view of a pair of sweatpants, and other short writings, diagrams, and illustrations.
Helbig's style of writing definitely speaks most directly to millennials like herself. Her YouTube channel it'sGrace has over three million subscribers, so it is evident that a lot of people are listening. Beware that some of the humor in the book is slightly off-color and may not appeal to all. But if you are experiencing style website and fashion magazine fatigue, this book will be a welcome distraction and may even impart some useful advice.
Bismarck native Elizabeth Jacobs is assistant director of the Bismarck Veterans Memorial Public Library. Follow the library on Facebook at facebook.com/bismarcklibrary.