Title: The Hatmaker’s Heart
Author: Carla Stewart
Source: Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review
Tl;dr: Love and smiles and kindness for this interesting book on a young woman trying to make it in the hatmaking world.
I read this book while I was working on my new place. I didn’t think I would have time or energy to read, but this book had just the kind of story I needed: In New York, in the Roaring Twenties a young woman works for a famous millinery, and seems to be quite talented. However this is not appreciated by the owner of the shop, who keeps holding her back. She also has personal issues to overcome, like her stuttering and shyness. And what about this friend of hers from the past?
What I loved most about the book were the characters. Even though Nellie was too introverted and calm to recognize much of myself in her, she seemed a lovely girl. She has two friends she lived with in New York, who both have very different lives, with much more partying and much less work. Nellie has dinner at Angelo’s very often, an Italian place with charming owners who have really taken to her (and the description of gnocchi made me want to make some!). There is a friendship with a guy from her job who seems to fancy her, but even though she does not fancy him, this is not made into a drama. Her boss, Oscar Fields, is a real ass, pardon my Franch. And then I haven’t even mentioned Nellie’s grandmother and mother, and some of Nellie’s faithful customers! All the people felt very real, even though it was completely clear who the “good guys” and “bad guys” were. I really rooted for Nellie, to get the awesome job she deserved and the boy she loved.
I also greatly enjoyed reading about this period in time, the 20’s of the last century. I don’t think I’ve read much about it, but after watching Downton Abbey, it interests me more and more. There was still so much hope (because the Great Depression and WWII had not happened yet), so much new discoveries were being done, and there was so much change in society. Another thing I liked, was seeing a field of work I know really nothing about: hatmaking. It’s not something I would ever be interested in doing myself, or reading non-fiction books about, but I loved learning a bit about it through this fiction (it’s the same with books about ballet ready: I love reading fiction about it, but doing it myself is not appealing at all).
At some points Christian views have been put into the story, which felt articifial: it could have easily done without, in my opinion. Only at the end I saw the book is published by a religiously oriented publisher, which made those fragments make more sense. The parts were not annoying or anything, they just felt slightly out of place. This is my biggest critique of the story, which might mostly come from my atheist background, and might not bother other readers that much. Besides this, I think the title could have been better chosen: the heart of the hatmaking is not that central to story as the title makes it seem. It has a nice alliteration though.
If you want some calm and cozy book, sitting outside with a wide brimmed sun hat, while sipping a glass of iced tea, this would be a perfect pick.