Description of the book "Elegance": Louise C. Unhappy with her looks, her life, and her empty marriage, Louise Canova needs help — and she finds it in a secondhand bookstore. A forty-year-old encyclopedia of style titled Elegance, this slim volume by formidable French fashion expert Madame Dariaux promises to transform even the PDF plainest of women into creatures of poise and grace. It is a fairy godmother in print, an A-to-Z manual with essential advice that Louise vows to take to heart.
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But neither of us move. He frowns at me. Besides, she really likes you. I sigh and stare at my feet. Potato, potato, potato. But when your mother-in-law is a former model from the s who specializes in reducing you to a blithering pulp each time you see her, then there is really only one word that springs to mind. And that word ispotato. He wraps an arm around me. But there are some things you do, if not for love, than at least for a quiet life. I lift my head and force a smile.
I strip off my brown woolly overcoat and hand it to the coat check attendant, discreetly passing my hand over my tummy for a spot check. I can feel the gentle protrusion. Too much pasta tonight. Comfort food. Comfort eating. Why tonight, of all nights? I try to suck it in but it requires too much effort.
So I give up. I hold out my hand. He takes it, and together we walk into the cool, white world of the Twentieth-Century Galleries. The buzz and hum of the crowd engulfs us as we make our way across the pale marble floor.
Young men and women, dressed in crisp white shirts, swing by balancing trays of champagne and in an alcove a jazz trio are plucking out the sophisticated rhythms of "Mack the Knife. And then I see them: the photographs. The flawless, aloof faces gaze back at me. I long to linger, to lose myself in the world of the pictures. The tired, silent man in the cab is replaced by a dazzling, gregarious, social raconteur.
Mona spots us and waves back, a little half scooping royal wave, the signal for us to join her. Turning our shoulders sideways, we squeeze through the crowd, negotiating drinks and lit cigarettes. As we come into range I pull a face that I hope passes as a smile. She is wonderfully, fantastically, superhumanly preserved. Her abundant silver-white hair is swept back from her face in an elaborate chignon, making her cheekbones appear even more prominent and her eyes feline.
She acknowledges me with a brisk nod of the head, then turns her attention back to her son. You must be exhausted! Did I tell you that? If you ever want tickets, you must let me know. Lend me a light, Mona? All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Elegance: A Novel
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