If Joanne Harris made me crave Chocolat for the entirety of her novel, Isabel Wolff made me very aware of what I was wearing while I was reading A Vintage Affair.
At Phoebe Swift’s shop, Village Vintage, each item of clothing comes with a designer label from the 1920s to 1970s and a history which could change people’s lives. In reality it is the shop’s owner who could do with a change. A heavy weight of guilt hangs around her neck after her best friend Emma died and Phoebe hopes her new venture will distract her from the pain.
Instead it brings into her life Mrs Bell, who carries her own guilty story and tries to help Phoebe confront her demons, Dan – with his joie de vivre and Annie – her faithful shop assistant, and despite the pain she feels, Phoebe begins to make a success of her shop.
When the reader learns circumstances behind Emma’s death, and Phoebe’s reason for feeling guilty, it makes for uncomfortable reading, but for that reason I return to read this book over and over again. It may look like fluffy chick-lit but it deals with some painful issues and Wolff has created a great ensemble cast of characters who the reader comes to really care about. I think this could become a firm favourite for anyone.