A Woman by Design

Frances Kennett, Author
Frances Kennett, Author Random House (NY) $18.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-394-56544-6
Reviewed on: 09/01/1988
Release date: 09/01/1988
Having written three books on the history of fashion, Kennett brings strong credentials to this debut novel featuring a woman determined to succeed in the world of haute couture during the first half of the 20th century. Unfortunately, the wealth of background detail is often dry rather than colorful. Marriage to an English lord initially offers Alice Hardy deliverance from the repressive household of her Irish grandparents, but a divorce from her cold, impersonal husband threatens to make her a social pariah. To support herself and her young daughter, Alice turns to dressmaking. Dogged work and a rising reputation for unusual design permit her to regain much of her former status among the English gentry, a turn of events that seems unlikely. Her shops thrive on both sides of the Atlantic, but Alice remains driven and unhappy, despite a passionate affair with a married duke and a second marriage to a man who loves her, flaws and all. Along with the entire cast of characters who are merely sketched in, Alice is intriguing, but never entirely engaging. Since the novel delineates events of her busy life without delving below the surface, she remains a cipher to the end. (September)
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