Book Club Discussion: A Vintage Affair

Please take a look at the discussion questions below and Nancy's responses, then comment with your own responses to some or all of the questions. Also, please include the number of the question(s) with your response(s) so we can all keep track of what is being discussed. Feel free to add any other comments you have that are not prompted by the questions. Thank you for reading A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff and participating in our discussion!
How responsible is Phoebe for what happened to Emma?

Phoebe believes that she could have done more to help Emma, so she lives with constant regret and guilt. Her feelings are understandable, and I kept thinking that she should have gone to a grief counselor or sought some sort of professional help instead of trying to escape by opening a clothing store. She was trying to mask her feelings and ignore them by working all the time, but that didn’t take away the loss and how upset she really was. The book had a dark cloud hanging over it because of this. Usually, in chick lit/women’s fiction the main character’s best friend is present, so the fact that Emma was deceased really made the story dark and difficult to read at times. Phoebe’s sadness was present in every scene, even when she thought she was moving on, she never really was until the very end of the book. Emma was always on Phoebe’s mind, and that awful night was always tormenting Phoebe.

Which of Phoebe's three romantic interests were you rooting for? Why?

I didn’t particularly care for any of them. I knew that she would never be with Guy again, which was understandable. I thought Miles was annoying, especially with how much he spoiled his daughter, Roxy. It was clear that Phoebe didn’t fit in with them, so I knew their relationship wouldn’t last. Dan was okay. He seemed like a nice guy, but it didn’t really matter to me if Phoebe ended up with him or not. I wasn’t really rooting for any of the guys. 

Talk about the connection between Thérèse Bell and Phoebe. What draws them together? What do their losses have in common? Why hasn't Thérèse shared her story of Monique with anyone before?

Thérèse and Phoebe are drawn together by vintage clothes, but they bond because they both lost dear friends. Like Phoebe, Thérèse also feels guilty for what she thinks happened to her childhood friend, Monique. Both women feel as if their friends were counting on them for help and they let them down. Thérèse has been too ashamed to share her story with anyone until Phoebe comes along. They have an instant connection and form a deep bond, despite the big age difference between them. 

Were you engaged by the detailed passages about vintage clothing—the style, fabric, and history of fashion?

I enjoyed all the details about the vintage clothing. It was obvious that the author did her research and/or has her own passion for vintage clothes since it was clear that she was very knowledgeable about these items. 

Phoebe says, "when you buy a piece of vintage clothing, you're not just buying fabric and thread—you're buying a piece of someone's past." Do you wear vintage clothes? If so, is the idea of wearing a piece of someone else's life appealing to you? If you've never purchased vintage clothes, why not?

I haven’t bought or worn vintage clothes, but I do buy and wear vintage inspired clothes from ModCloth. I love the retro inspired look of these clothes. I wouldn’t be opposed to wearing vintage clothes if I really fell in love with the piece and felt like I had to have it. 

A number of reviewers insist that A Vintage Affair is "NOT just chick lit." What is chick-lit and what separates it from so called "serious fiction"?

In my post In Defense of Chick Lit, I explain what chick lit is and what it is not. I don’t like to call something “serious fiction” because that implies that other books that are on the more humorous side don’t have depth, and that’s not true. It also implies that certain books should be taken seriously and others shouldn’t, and I don’t agree with that either. Books have merit for different reasons. I don’t think the chick lit/women’s fiction genre should be split down the middle between serious and non-serious.

Is the book's ending satisfying? Were all the loose ends tied-up?

The ending was satisfying for me. The loose ends were tied up in the epilogue, and it was nice to have that last part to get some closure about “the blue coat.” Phoebe’s relationship/friendship with Dan was left open-ended, which was okay with me. Like I said before, I wasn’t too invested in any of the romances going on throughout the book. They were overshadowed by Phoebe’s and Thérèse’s stories of loss. 

Would you recommend A Vintage Affair? Why or why not?

It was well-written, so I would recommend it, but I would caution people that it has a darker storyline than they might expect. It seems as though the book is about a vintage clothing shop and the owner’s adventures in life and love, but it’s more about loss, longing, sadness, regret, and trying to move on. Despite the whimsy of vintage clothing, Phoebe and Thérèse have such upsetting stories, which take over the book.