In this book, Patricia Volk writes about her mother and about what she taught her about being a woman. But Patricia felt liberated when she read a biography about Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, and the way she approached womanhood, feeling like she was being opened up to another way of being. It’s partly a beautiful memoir of a beloved and complex parent, and partly an exploration of womanhood. It’s the story of three women, the author, her mother and the designer. But it’s also a beautiful story of understanding our mothers and how we want to be like them, follow in their footsteps, and also rebel against them and be our own kind of woman.
I loved this book. It’s often very funny, often bittersweet. And it’s odd because it’s kind of a memoir or a biography, and yet it’s kind of subjective and exploratory in a way too. It defies easy definition in that sense. I feel like the way in which women live their lives and the social rules that define those lives are always changing, and this felt like such a lovely snapshot of a different time, as the author grew up in the 50’s. And yet I think all daughters have this generation gap where the rules that their mothers teach them or demonstrate are not always able to be lived up to. It’s also fascinating that Schiaparelli and Audrey Volk are contemporaries but are so different.
Audrey, Patricia’s mother, is not an easy woman at all. She’s beautiful and hard to know, a woman who has set a high standard for her daughter and who loves her, but who can also be cold, unkind at times. She’s complicated. I loved the way that to the author, her daughter, Audrey has an elusive quality. That exploration of the Mother-Daughter bond and relationship is perhaps always fascinating. Here it’s explored beautifully, with a look at what it means to be a woman, whatever that means to you.
Read It If: you love anything vintage or love women’s stories. This book has a vintage feel, plenty of emotion, and a beautiful exploration of life, relationships and womanhood. Beautiful.