The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard
By Erin McGraw
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780618386284, 384pp.)
Publication Date: August 2008
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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I couldn’t cook but I could sew. It would have been better the other way around.” So begins this witty and transporting new novel by the acclaimed Erin McGraw, introducing us to Nell Plat, who, at age seventeen, finds herself unhappily married and the mother of two baby girls. For a young woman with a hunger for excitement and glamour, Kansas circa 1900 offers nothing but a flat horizon. Still, Nell find some joy sewing and making dresses for women in town. Dreaming over her sewing machine, she begins to entertain ambitions she knows she cannot share.
Based on Erin McGraw’s grandmother’s life, here is the storytold in Nell’s own irreverent and wise voiceof what happens when Nell runs away to Los Angeles in the year 1901 as the new motion-picture industry is just taking root. Nell marries again, has a daughter, and goes into business as a costumer in the Hollywood of the Roaring Twenties, renaming herself Madame Annelle. But a knock on the door by her grown daughters, precisely the thing she has most feared, threatens to take apart the new life Nell has so carefully built. Forced to confront the legacy of the life she believed she had shed, Nell struggles to make the right choices the second time around and finds herself truly transformed.
In vividly bringing to life the story of Nell Plat, Erin McGraw gives voice to the stories of the countless young women who, unsatisfied with their lives, headed to Hollywood in its heyday. The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard magically recreates that glamorous time and place, and allows us to witness it beautifully dressed, well lit, and close up
Erin McGraw is the author of four previous books, including The Good Life and Lies of the Saints (a New York Times Notable Book). She has published stories and essays in the Atlantic Monthly, Story, and other publications. She is married to the poet Andrew Hudgins and is a professor of creative writing at Ohio State University.