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The Dressmakers of Prospect Heights

Review

The Dressmakers of Prospect Heights

In THE DRESSMAKERS OF PROSPECT HEIGHTS, Kitty Zeldis sweeps us back to experience a time after the Great War, when women not born with a silver spoon in their mouths were limited in their options. While the action takes place over the course of a year, we are treated to flashbacks and the characters' thoughts that give us insight into what their lives were and how they developed into the people we meet at the start of the story. Each woman has her own tribulations and must overcome a flaw that makes her life less than it could be.

"Zeldis has written a thoughtful story about women in the post-WWI era, who were subject to at least as much misogyny and abuse as women are today.... THE DRESSMAKERS OF PROSPECT HEIGHTS would be a popular choice for a book club as there is much to discuss."

Beatrice and Alice have recently moved from New Orleans to Prospect Heights, an area in Brooklyn. There they open a dress shop, and we slowly learn their backstory. Bea is Jewish and originally from Russia. Although her family was well-to-do in their Russian town, it didn't stop the anti-Semitism there from essentially destroying them. Bea flees to America and changes her name. In New Orleans, she becomes a successful businesswoman and thus is able to hire a private detective to search for someone. We don't know who that person is, but the money she has saved allows her to accomplish her objective of relocating to New York to meet that individual. Accompanying Bea is Alice, who was orphaned and has lived with Bea since she was 10.

While Bea has creative ideas about how to repurpose clothes, Alice is the one who can actually do the sewing necessary to create beautiful, stylish and unique dresses. Bea isn't a very affectionate person but has always taken care of Alice and has made sure that she knows she’s safe. So when Bea meets Catherine, Alice understandably feels left out. Alice doesn't know that Catherine is the person Bea has been looking for and is kept in the dark about their relationship. As Bea and Catherine grow closer, Alice becomes jealous. This causes ripples in the lives of all three women, and there is some tragedy before the touching ending.

This is not a mystery; there are few twists and turns. Instead, Zeldis has written a thoughtful story about women in the post-WWI era, who were subject to at least as much misogyny and abuse as women are today. The characters are effectively drawn, and we empathize with them. The themes include an inability to bear children and the horrors of rape, discrimination and anti-Semitism, all of which are presented realistically and with compassion. The book is gripping not because of the action, but because of our desire to see Bea, Alice and Catherine arrive at a place in life where they will be happy and satisfied. These remarkable women will stay with readers long after the last page is turned.

THE DRESSMAKERS OF PROSPECT HEIGHTS would be a popular choice for a book club as there is much to discuss. I think the conversation would be lively, with many different opinions about the decisions the characters make. In fact, I'd love to partake in such a discussion.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on January 6, 2023

The Dressmakers of Prospect Heights
by Kitty Zeldis

  • Publication Date: December 6, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 0063026341
  • ISBN-13: 9780063026346