Jade BeerJun 27, 2022
The Last Dress from Paris
London, 2017. Lucille will do anything for her beloved grandmother. So when Granny Sylvie volunteers to send her to Paris to retrieve a beloved Dior creation left in the city many years ago, Lucille accepts. Why not escape for the weekend, when home means dealing with her hostile, demanding boss and a mother so uncaring that she’s forgotten Lucille’s birthday for five years in a row? Not long after arriving in Paris, however, Lucille discovers that the one dress is actually eight, and two of those are missing, including the Maxim’s, which she was specifically tasked with bringing back to London. Soon she is searching all over the city, in the company of her new friends Veronique and Leon, while her boss screams his frustration over the phone.
This present-day story intertwines with one set in Paris in 1952, featuring Alice Ainsley, the young, newlywed wife of Britain’s ambassador to France. Alice’s wealth and her position in society require her to look and act the part of the perfect hostess. Who better to dress her for that role than Christian Dior, whose New Look is taking the fashionable world by storm? Alice soon becomes the envy of her insulated social set, but her apparently blissful existence conceals great insecurity and hurt. Her husband has lost interest in her since the honeymoon, and the couple only grows farther apart over time.
Jade Beer does a wonderful job of interweaving these two timelines, keeping us guessing as to how they connect well into the book. And the contrast between Lucille’s modern approach to life, even when it lets her down, and Alice’s more limited options, despite her apparent prosperity, reveal the vast gulf between the 1950s view of women and our own, as well as the subtle ways in which one generation’s choices influence those of the next.
Jade Beer is an award-winning editor, journalist, and writer. In addition to The Last Dress from Paris (Berkely Books, 2022), she has published the contemporary novels The Almost Wife and What I Didn’t Say.
C. P. Lesley is the author of two historical fiction series set during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible and three other novels. Her latest novel, Song of the Sinner, appeared in January 2022.