A charming story that twists the lives of New Yorkers around a little black dress. Or is it the other way around?
A little black dress catches the eyes of the buyers lining the fashion runway and becomes the dress of the season. The dress finds its way in varying degrees into the lives of nine women as it is bought, returned, and borrowed from the third-floor dress department at Bloomingdale's. The title may sell the novel short—the story is not just about nine women; it’s as much, maybe equally so, about the men who share their lives. The back story hearkens to the days when families fled Europe’s looming Holocaust. Two young immigrants build a dressmaking business, and decades later their little black dress catches the eyes of New York buyers as Sally Ann Fennely, fresh from Alabama, makes her debut stroll down the runway. And thus begins the love affair with the LBD—a Max Hammer creation featured on the cover of Women’s Wear Daily. It’s a testimony to Rosen’s artful vision that she fills the pages with so many characters, each with a unique story, without muddling the waters. There is the dressmaker and his son, a movie star and his “beard,” Bloomingdale's employees who take the lives of their customers into their own hands, an attorney, his girlfriend, his executive assistant, a private detective and the husband she spies on, a young Muslim girl who finds the dress and offs her burka for a try-on, and more. It all works. Each scenario is revisited and broadened as the chapters unfurl. If there's a flaw, it’s in the voices of the characters (each within their own chapters), which sound too similar, recounting their tales with the same subtle, ironic humor.
Rosen’s debut novel is rich in relationships, written with clarity and humor and surprise twists that bring the tale to a satisfying conclusion. A pure pleasure to read.