Sunday, June 16, 2013

Shocked: My Mother, Schiaparelli, and Me by Patricia Volk

It is my habit to listen to NPR and it was on one of the shows that I heard an <a href="">interview with Patricia Volk</a> about her book, <i>Shocked</i>.

I'm woefully ignorant about the world of high fashion, so the name Schiaparelli did not immediately strike cords with me. Yet as I read, I realized that her influence even peaked into that small home in a middle class, mostly Jewish neighborhood, where I grew up. But the interview was so alive, fascinating, that I immediately headed to the library to request the next available copy of the book. Luckily for me, the wait was just two days.

This was a voyage into a completely different world than my own. Though I grew up surrounded by strong, beautiful, fascinating, forthright women, they were nothing at all like either designer/artist Elsa Schiaparelli or Audry Volk, the author’s mother. It was a glimpse not behind the curtain, but more of one from backstage to the spotlight itself, to see how women of fashion and a prestige my family never experienced lived.

The juxtaposition of the the life of these two women, and how they helped shape Volk, not so much by example, but by helping her to build her mind and ideals into a life she, herself, wished to live, is fascinating. Richly illustrated with photographs and fancy from the world of both women, dotted with dashes of the famous, the memoir reveals lives rich in conviction, passion, flare, and some flamboyance. I loved that each chapter began with a quote from each woman, and then unrolled with Volk's take on a subject or situation. And Volk also reiterates the theme of how a single book can change a life. I would add my own belief, that it is the books you read, and the people you meet, who help shape the person you become. While this book will not change who I am, it certainly has expanded my knowledge and filled in some interesting bits of information. I'm glad I read it.

Some takeaway bits that particularly delighted me:
Schiap (the name she preferred over her given one) regularly scheduled dinner engagements with just herself, and then ate dinner, alone, in her library.

A quote from Bruno Bettelheim: "Books lie in wake for our readiness."

A quote from Patricia Volk: "No book is the same twice."

I was ready for this book. Now I wonder what I'd think on a re-read.

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