Monday, March 07, 2005

A House of Tailors

A House of Tailors by Patricia Riley Giff, 2004

Dina's stitches are small and straight. She has a sense for color and fabric. Dina's gift is sewing but she hates it. She longs to go to America and live with her uncle and his family but when she ends up having to flee to New York from her home in Germany she finds her dream and the reality of life in Brooklyn are far apart.

Giff can put the reader into the setting of a story better than any other writer. In her novel, Nory Ryan’s Song, we knew when the blight had overtaken the potato crop because we could “smell” it. In this book we sense the crowded streets, the cooking in the tenements and the soot from the fires of Brooklyn in the 1870s. The crowding, disease and long back breaking hours of labor that were part of the immigrants life are accurately depicted. The joys of the her new land include her first taste of ice cream, a new friend Johann, and her little niece and nephew. Dina longs for her home and family in Germany but finds she cannot imagine leaving her new family and friends. She finds great pride in her talent for hat and dressmaking and ultimately makes a place for herself in her new country. Dina is a wonderful character full of strength and love.

Giff wrote this story as a tribute to her great grandmother. Her touching afterward describes which stories from the book which came directly from her own family history.
Patricia Riley Giff is one of the most honest writers I have ever read. She is like an accomplished musician, every note of her books rings true and touches the heart.

For more information and books by this remarkable author, visit her site at Random House.

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