Isabel Wolff's new book, A Vintage Affair, is a nice book to read while lolling around on the beach (or, in my case, the porch swing). The writing is easy to digest but without too many cliches to dirty up the water. A Vintage Affair is a book for Project Runway devotees - vintage couture galore, label-dropping, a serious eye for style are a major selling point for main character Phoebe. Phoebe is also of an appropriate age for her work experience (she is in her early thirties) so it's nice to see someone who is more "real person" than early twenties wunderkind.
However, there are too many story threads. The story of Mrs. Bell and the blue coat is a nice parallel to Phoebe's paralyzing level of guilt regarding the death of her friend Emma. Then there's the ex-fiancee that Phoebe broke up with when Emma died. There's a reporter Phoebe meets who seems like a really nice guy as well as an economist/investment banker who comes complete with obnoxious teenage daughter (one of the guys is the rebound). Oh, the banker has a family estate in the south of France conveniently located near the town Pheobe visits to buy vintage clothes. Phoebe's parents are breaking up because her academic anthropologist dad was caught shacking up with a documentary filmmaker and knocking her up. There's a psychic and a superstitious dressmaker. After a while it seemed really odd that all these people with odd problems/situations wound up together in one 250-page book.
A Vintage Affair was a nice diversion from Children of the New World and Bel Canto but I kept wishing the narrative would stop introducing more threads because it seemed unlikely to sew them all up in time for the last page of the book.