Elegance is an enjoyable ⥥el good⟢ook in the tradition of MarianKeyes, but with a delightful twist. In her early thirties, Louise Canovahas reached a crossroads in her life. She is married to a well meaning butemotionally distant actor who treats her like a slightly irresponsibleflatmate. Once Louise had hoped to be an actress herself but now sheworks in the box office of a theatre. Clearly Louise is in a rut and sheneeds some magic in her life. She discovers her unlikely fairy godmother,Madame Genevieve Antoine Dariaux, on the shelf of a second handbookshop. The beautiful Madame Dariaux is the author of Elegance, anencyclopaedia of style written in the early 1960s, that promises totransform ordinary women into creatures of grace and poise. Elegancebecomes Louise′s guide to life. As she absorbs the advice within thepages, often in the form of maxims like ⍥ver be seduced by anythingthat isn′t first rate⪠she takes drastic steps. Within months Louise has anew wardrobe, a new job and no husband. But will she find true happinessthrough Elegance?
Tessaro′s debut novel is a witty, thoughtful celebration of friendship as well as a modern take on Cinderella. Instead of leaving two ugly stepsisters to marry the handsome prince, Louise abandons the handsome prince to move in with two unlikely flatmates. Elegance is a must read for everyone who enjoys quirky British comedies like Cold Feet and Rescue Me. You will also be delighted to know that both Madame Dariaux and her guide to style really do exist!
Questions for discussion:
1. Do you agree with Madame Dariaux′s definition of elegance? Is it something that modern women still aspire to?
2. How important to the plot is the use of quotes from her book at the beginning of each chapter. Discuss some of those quotes in terms of modern women′s lives. For example ៎ever forget that when you are dressing for dinner, you are dressing not just for yourself, but also for the pleasure and comfort of the gentleman taking you⬠Does this still apply in the 21st century?
3. Did you find Louise an appealing heroine? Do you think this novel is the diary of a mental breakdown?
4. How important is the fact that Louise is an American living in London?
5. Discuss Louise′s relationships with her mother and mother-inlaw. How are these two women linked to Madame Dariaux?
6. There are a number of stereotypical characters in this novel e.g. the gay best friend, the dizzy society workmates. Did they annoy you or add to the humour? Are stereotypes always a bad thing in fiction?
7. Discuss the fairy-tale aspects of this story.
8. Compare and contrast this novel with Bridget Jones′s Diary by Helen Fielding. Which did you prefer and why?
9. What does Louise learn about herself by the end of the novel? Is Elegance just another chick-lit romance or does it rise above the genre?
10. Did you find the ending satisfying? Who would you recommend this book to?
About Kathleen Tessaro