The Dressmaker’s Gift by Fiona Valpy depicts the sheer tenacity of the human spirit. Bonded by more than their living conditions, Claire, Vivienne, and Mirielle take a stand against the Nazi’s as they occupy Paris during the 1940s. Their jobs as seamstress’ provide the perfect cover in a world of rising fashion, but their loyalty and friendship to one another may cost them everything. In present-day Paris, Claire’s granddaughter, Harriet, seeks to uncover the missing pieces of her past and accept her mother’s suicide. Her purpose, however, is more connected to her grandmother than she realizes.
Overall, Valpy provides a glimpse into the life of the people surviving in Nazi-occupied Paris. She recounts the rationing of food, the implementation of curfews, and the lack of coal. But The Dressmaker’s Gift is more about the friendships of Claire, Vivienne, and Mirielle – a bond set against the backdrop of war. The story of Harriet is minimal and, in my opinion, serves only to elevate the books ending – an ending that moved me to tears with an unexpected but heart-warming revelation. The mention of inherited trauma, however, caused me to drop my rating from 5 to 4 stars. This is a dangerous assumption to put into a society grappling with a rise in mental health issues. But then again, this is historical fiction.
If you seek a novel about friendships, war, and survival, look no further. Set during the turmoil of WWII, The Dressmaker’s Gift will both warm your heart and touch your soul.