Publishing year: 2014
The Dress Thief is another book I read while on holiday and I loved it. At first, it was a bit confusing as I tried to figure out how all these characters and events went together.
The book starts with a murder in Alsace, and a man telling the murdered man’s wife to keep quiet. The victim is a painter and that happens in 1903. Then the book jumps to 1917 in Paris where Alix Gower, the murdered man’s granddaughter, lives with her grandmother. Alix has lost both her parents. Her mother died in childbirth and her father when she was five. The book focuses on Alix and the secrets she has been kept from. Alix has secrets of her own; she copies models of important designers in Paris and through a contact they are sold and made copies of in America. She and her friend Paul split the earnings. Then Paul has a proposition for her; she’ll steal a whole collection from Javier, a very famous designer,and they’ll earn lots of money. Through the woman in contact, Alix gets to work at the atelier of this famous designer, and even though she is ridiculed and mocked by the other women, Alix is happy because that’s what she longs to do.
I like the character of Alix as she goes through a big transformation in the book: from naive to experienced in just a few years. Naturally, Alix is caught in the end and sacked, but she manages to find her own two feet in this industry. She also hooks up with Serge, a seedy man who takes advantage of her and makes her corrupt herself. I think Alix goes with this man because of a disappointment with the person she loves, Verrian Haviland. Verrian and Alix meet several times by chance, and it’s obvious that Verrian is smitten. Yet, Verrian is bitter after the experiences in the Spanish civil war, and when he learns that the man he tried to save is dead, he decides to go back to Spain. The letter he writes to Alix never reaches her, and she thinks he’s abandoned her. That’s when her decline starts as she accepts Serge as her lover.
In the book there’s also the Comte of Charembourg, who is the person who killed the painter, and now he’s blackmailed. He has been a protector of Alix under the excuse that Alix’s father saved his life during the war. That proves to be false. In the end we learn that the Comte never met Alix’s father, but was in love with her mother. And he helped Alix in her education because he was the one who killed her grandfather in a rage when the man beat her wife. There were rumours that the Comte was Alix’s father, but Alix didn’t want to know the truth as she wanted to leave her father’s image as it was. I was disappointed not to know the truth myself, but I understand that for Alix, knowing who fathered her wasn’t important. For her her real father was the one she remembers and acted as a father to her.
I loved the book. I enjoyed all the moments with Alix, even the ones in which she was at her lowest ebb and was with Serge. And naturally I liked Verrian; he was a perfect man for her. I wasn’t surprised when it turned out that Bonnet, the old-time friend was the blackmailer and the person who had attacked both Alix and Danielle. I suspected him from the first.