Friday, 19 June 2009

Clothes at a certain age

Have recently read for a book club Linda Grant's The Clothes on Their Backs, which I enjoyed but felt ultimately vaguely disappointed in, and was not alone in this feeling. Nevertheless an interesting read with something to say about how much clothes can matter to an individual, male or female. The narrator Vivian is the child of Hungarian refugees from the Nazi era, and describes growing up in a mansion flat in London with her parents. The other residents of the block are beautifully sketched in. Her family has few visitors, except once her father's brother who stayed in Hungary during the war, only escaping during the Hungarian Uprising in 1956. Her uncle and his companion's clothes are described in loving detail. The story is told by the adult, looking back to her childhood, adolescence and early womanhood, including her first brief tragic marriage. I heard Linda Grant, who also writes The Thoughtful Dresser blog talk to Catherine Hill, also a concentration camp survivor, about the importance of appearance in such appalling circumstances. The group discusing the book were of mixed opinion about the idea of the importance of clothes, but most of us cared in some way about what we wore and how we looked.

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