In my opinion, Phoebe Stone doesn't get nearly enough kudos for her writing. I've been a hard core fan since I first read Deep Down Popular. Stone writes brilliant, realistic, middle grade fiction. They are charming stories with endearing characters. If I'm looking for tween romance, she is my go to person.
When I started this one I wasn't looking for much more than a sweet satisfying read. It didn't take long for me to become completely absorbed in the story and the characters. I admit that at first I was uncomfortable with the sibling rivalry and the mother's favouritism of the older sister. That was just plain creepy. In spite of this, the novel suprised me with the many layers and strands of plot that come together at the end. It was beyond satisfying!
The Beanly family is in Paris while the father is on sabbatical writing about Flaubert. Petunia, the younger sister, is happy to be away from America where she made a fool of herself because of a crush on Windel Watson. Unfortunately, Windel is also in Paris.
There are three story lines weaving their way through this book:
Petunia's humiliating crush on Windel Watson, a piano prodigy from her school, is told in flashbacks.
The adversarial relationship between Petunia and her older, beautiful sister, Ava, is both backdrop and foreground to the other story lines.
Through Petunia's relationship with the elderly concierge, Collette, an historical component takes readers into the history of the Jumeau doll company and the Second World War.
As someone who sews many of her own clothes, I was fascinated by the fashion and fabrication of clothing aspects to this novel. I hope that while the actual sewing might not appeal to readers, the fashion aspects will.
Although it isn't apparent early on, a Cinderella theme permeates this novel. Just like the fairy tale, the ending is happy.