cover image The Collection

The Collection

Gioia Diliberto, . . Scribner, $25 (275pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-8065-5

Setting her second novel among the glamorous couture houses of post-WWI Paris, Diliberto (I Am Madame X ) delves into a Europe inching its way back to caring about fashion. Following the death of her fiancé and family, fictitious 22-year-old seamstress Isabelle Varlet leaves her provincial town in 1919 and takes a low-level job working for Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, joining a gaggle of young women sewing until their fingers bleed to serve “Mademoiselle” in preparation for the upcoming fall collection. Dresses are depicted in magnificent detail; fellow couturiers Madeleine Vionnet and Jean Patou are vibrant and alive, and Diliberto even incorporates period fashion journalism. Still, Isabelle, on a frustrating run of bad luck, proves a bit of a snore—she’s an orphan, she falls ill and loses her job, her workroom is robbed. And her love story with poet Daniel Blank feels forced. Chanel, however, is another story: with her married lovers and fiery arrogance, Mademoiselle is the true star of the book; each moment she’s on the page is sheer pleasure, much like fine couture. (Sept.)