Author: William Norwich
Title: My Mrs. Brown
First line: Early one September not long ago, a rural woman with a secret grief traveled to New York City in pursuit of a dream, to buy the most beautiful and correct dress she'd ever seen.
It's a great opening line, isn't it? I was hooked with just that. But then, on the next page, I found out it gets even better:
This daring voyager was Emilia Brown, or Mrs. Brown as she was generally known in her hometown, Ashville Rhode Island. She was sixty-six years old, a widow; if she was a scent, she was tea with honey, but if she was a color, she was a study in gray. Whether from the friction of living without life's buffering luxuries and engaging ambitions, or by the reduction of dreams and expectations that comes with age: gray. Mrs. Brown was drained of color. Except for her green-brown eyes. If and when she smiled, well, it was like watching a rose open in one of those time-lapse films, and her eyes, spring flowers at twilight, lit up her face.Ordinary, dignified, humble and quiet, Mrs. Brown makes an impression on all those she meets. And so does her dream of owning this one perfect designer dress that will finally answer some secret need deep inside her heart. Because "sometimes a dress is not just a dress. It's a symbol" of something more. Reminiscent of Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris, which Norwich references several times, My Mrs. Brown is a beautifully written, character-driven story. It's both poignant and charming. I loved all the women in this book, and there are several: Florida Noble, the fashion model who comes to stay for a few months, Rachel, director of Public Relations for Oscar de la Renta and a new friend, and Alice, Mrs. Brown's next-door neighbor's granddaughter who comes over for tea after work. But I especially loved Emilia Brown. I loved her quiet dignity and her wisdom and her grace. She's unforgettable!
I'm so glad I found this delightful gem hiding among the novels of Neggers, Nesbo and Nunes. It's such a good read! In fact, it was in the hopes of finding books just like this one that I started Reading the Alphabet in the first place. My Mrs. Brown is definitely one of my favorite books of 2016. Here's to bookish serendipity from the N shelf.