Monday, January 12, 2015

SHE READS REVIEW (Books of Winter): The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag

Title: The Dress Shop of Dreams
Author: Menna van Praag
Genre: Magic Realism Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: December 30/2014
Acquired: Paperback copy provided by publisher
Goodreads: ADD

For fans of Alice Hoffman, Sarah Addison Allen, and Adriana Trigiani, The Dress Shop of Dreams is a captivating novel of enduring hopes, second chances, and the life-changing magic of true love.

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.


Magic realism is a hit or miss genre for me, leaning more heavily on the miss side. I hear the raving for Sarah Addison Allen, but I never felt what many others did when I finally read her book. It's such a tricky subject to tackle: writing about magic without actually including magic. It's the dreaded, "it's there, you just can't SEE it!" debate, and one that is, unfortunately, lost more than it is won. I've found that many authors lose me with their poetic prose, insert one too many trees that stay bright through winter and can only be seen at the RIGHT time. Simply put: magic realism is a genre that I very rarely connect with. OH! but to have seen me reading The Dress Shop of Dreams, you wouldn't have had a second thought about how I felt about this literary category. You would have BELIEVED that I loved this genre, because my GOD, I loved this book.

You see, this book wasn't only about a 'magical' dress shop. It was also about a BOOKSHOP!, and love, and tragedy, and an endlessly frustrating bout of miscommunication. It was everything, and everyone, who existed and collided within, and outside, of these things. Of people who were denying their hearts, searching for truths, and praying for forgiveness. The synopsis speaks of two specifically lost characters, Cora and Walt, but when you begin to read The Dress Shop of Dreams, you discover just how many others are entwined in their stories, and soon, you are just as invested in their lives too, if not more.

It's strange, because I'm also not a huge fan of books that depict love as a single person. As though there is one person who has always loved you, will forever love you, and therefore, are beyond destined to end up with. This book should have had me constantly rolling my eyes, but Praag's writing was just so inescapably beautiful. Instead, I found myself happily sighing, and marking particularly sweet passages like a love-sick fool. I am in love, but I try to be realistic. The Dress Shop of Dreams was anything but realistic, and I loved pretty much every, single, word of it. 

Recommended for Fans of: Magic Realism, Romance, Women's Fiction, The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, Sarah Addison Allen.


CLICK HERE to read more about Menna on her website's author page! Such interesting little tid bits!

Contact Links:


Thank-you to the lovely ladies at She Reads for, and to Ballantine Books for sending me a print copy to review! CLICK HERE to see what other SheReads members thought of The Dress Shop of Dreams!


  1. I am also not a fan of magical realism (although I did really like Sarah Addison Allen's new book), but I think you may have convinced me to give this one a try. It contains two things I do truly love, clothing shops AND a bookstore! I'm in :)

    1. YES! It truly is a book that shouldn't be missed. The addition of a bookshop really sealed the deal for me-I love books that include CHARACTERS who love books *happy sigh*.

      And I'm glad to hear that Sarah Addison Allen's new book is good! I have that one sitting on my shelf waiting to be read =), I'll have to move it up in my TBR pile. Thanks!

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