Frustrated with two lengthy and verbose books that I have been wrestling with, I pulled Giff's slim historical novel from my red library bag, and was I ever delighted!
A House of Tailors tells a powerful story of immigration, love, fear, and doing what one dislikes for a greater cause in under 150 pages.
Thirteen-year-old Dina Kirk has a great talent for sewing. Raised in her mother's tailor shop near the French border, Dina has been sewing her entire life. And she loathes it.
|Dresses similar to what Dina would have sewn.|
One morning in 1870, after taking a rowboat in the river to exchange hat patterns with her French friend, Elise, Dina is apprehended by Prussian soldiers, accused of being a French spy. Her family uses her older sister's ticket money to send Dina to America, to live with Uncle Lucas and Aunt Barbara, where Dina dreams of never sewing again.
|Popular ladies' hat styles of that time.|
When Dina arrives in Brooklyn, disappointments come one after the other. Her aunt and uncle do not live in that large home, but only on the top floor. The bedroom they have prepared for her is only an emptied out closet with no window. Brooklyn is too hot in the summer, too cold in the summer.
|Dina and Uncle Lucas probably used a machine like this one.|
A smallpox epidemic, a tenement fire, a new friend, and other events lead to Dina's transformation from self-absorbed homesick girl to industrious selfless woman.
I know little about the Franco-Prussian War that Dina escapes, other than it was the war in which Germany annexed the Alsace and Lorraine regions where my ancestors come from.
Dina's story is loosely based on the story of Giff's own great-grandmother. It's a wonderful story, one that anyone would enjoy, though probably best suited to girls age ten and up.
Now, I am on a mission to read everything Patricia Reilly Giff ever wrote.