The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag

dress-shop-of-dreamsThe Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag, published in December 2014 by Ballantine Books.

Author. Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository. Barnes & Noble.

Source: publisher via Netgalley (thank you, Ballantine Books, for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review!).

Genre: errrmm… I want to say chick-lit?

Since her parents’ mysterious deaths many years ago, scientist Cora Sparks has spent her days in the safety of her university lab or at her grandmother Etta’s dress shop. Tucked away on a winding Cambridge street, Etta’s charming tiny store appears quite ordinary to passersby, but the colorfully vibrant racks of beaded silks, delicate laces, and jewel-toned velvets hold bewitching secrets: With just a few stitches from Etta’s needle, these gorgeous gowns have the power to free a woman’s deepest desires. 

Etta’s dearest wish is to work her magic on her granddaughter. Cora’s studious, unromantic eye has overlooked Walt, the shy bookseller who has been in love with her forever. Determined not to allow Cora to miss her chance at happiness, Etta sews a tiny stitch into Walt’s collar, hoping to give him the courage to confess his feelings to Cora. But magic spells—like true love—can go awry. After Walt is spurred into action, Etta realizes she’s set in motion a series of astonishing events that will transform Cora’s life in extraordinary and unexpected ways. (Goodreads)

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My rating: 3.5/5.

Best quote: There were several quotable moments, which is something that doesn’t always happen. I tend to skim over books sometimes if I’m waiting for stuff to happen, but here I took time to savor the language as well. I liked this one in particular, because I happen to agree with it completely:

“I’m not hungry,” Cora says, following Etta upstairs. – “Oh, my dear,” Etta laughs, the sound humming around her. “When is cake ever for hunger?”

I really enjoyed most of this bookI thought, when I got it, that it would be similar to Jenny Colgan’s novels, probably because of the title. It was not. It’s more sentimental and a bit too tender in places for my taste (particularly towards the end, when everyone gets a happy ending and there is just so much love and forgiveness going around…), but those were the only serious flaws, so if you’re into something really heart-warming, this is the book for you.

The best part of this novel are the characters. Van Praag created very real people here – and while I wanted to slap Milly and shake Dylan, there were Cora and Walt, Etta and Sebastian, and all the others to care about. Walt was my personal favourite, hopelessly in love with Cora, who was too emotionally numb to see it. This is a quote that sums him up beautifully, I think: “Since Walt rates the odds of his lips ever touching hers at less than his chances of winning the lottery, instead he bakes cherry pies so he can watch her eat.” (This is meant in a totally non-creepy way, Walt’s a sweetheart!)

What matters most is that this is a story that makes you care about its characters. Nothing revolutionary happens, there are no loud bangs or shiny flashes, but I wanted to skip ahead to see how their lives would unfold.

Some books shout their value and are delivered into our hands with lots of pomp and fanfare, but others wait to be discovered. This is one of the latter, a dusty old treasure chest full of riches.

All things considered, this was a good book to start the year off right and I am glad I read it. Go read it if you’re feeling down and want your faith in humanity restored! ;)

If you need another opinion, Lark of The Bookwyrm’s Hoard gave it 4 stars.

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Do you like heart-warming, inspirational reads? Or do you prefer your stories with some grit and grumbling? 

I’d love to hear your thoughts! 

(Also: sorry for the use of this hideous shade of pink. I’ve never had a chance to use it before because it never matched any of the covers!) :)

  • Yes! I really enjoyed this book, and it is exactly what you say: a book that makes you care about the characters.

    • Kaja

      I was actually really reluctant to read it despite the fact that I got it off Netgalley but your review reassured me! I’m glad I gave it a fair chance, it was really good.