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My Mrs. Brown

A Novel

Mr. William Norwich


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Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (4/18/2017)
Compact Disc (6/15/2016)
MP3 CD (6/15/2016)
Hardcover, Large Print (7/20/2016)


From William Norwich, the well-known fashion writer and editor, an unforgettable novel about a woman with a secret who travels to New York City on a determined quest to buy a special dress that represents everything she wants to say about that secret…and herself.

Sometimes a dress isn’t just a dress.

Emilia Brown is a woman of a certain age. She has spent a frugal, useful, and wholly restrained life in Ashville, a small town in Rhode Island. Overlooked especially by the industries of fashion and media, Mrs. Brown is one of today’s silent generations of women whose quiet no-frills existences would make them seem invisible. She is a genteel woman who has known her share of personal sorrows and quietly carried on, who makes a modest living cleaning and running errands at the local beauty parlor, who delights in evening chats with her much younger neighbor, twenty-three-year-old Alice Danvers.

When the grand dame of Ashville passes away, Mrs. Brown is called upon to inventory her estate and comes across a dress that changes everything. The dress isn’t a Cinderella confection; it’s a simple yet exquisitely tailored Oscar de la Renta sheath and jacket—a suit that Mrs. Brown realizes, with startling clarity, will say everything she has ever wished to convey. She must have it. And so, like the inspired heroine of Paul Gallico’s 1958 classic Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris, Mrs. Brown begins her odyssey to purchase the dress. For not only is the owning of the Oscar de la Renta a must, the intimidating trip to purchase it on Madison Avenue is essential as well. If the dress is to give Mrs. Brown a voice, then she must prepare by making the daunting journey—both to the emerald city and within herself.

Timeless, poignant, and appealing, My Mrs. Brown is a novel for every mother in the world, every woman who ever wanted the perfect dress, and every child who wanted to give it to her.

Praise For My Mrs. Brown: A Novel

“A contemporary fairy  tale… a gentle rebuke to today’s hyped-up fashion culture, which ignores the needs of ordinary women.”
— The New York Times

"So genteel, so old-world, so self-effacing, so full of surprises--Mrs. Brown's entrance into the world of high fashion will delight you. She'll change the way you look at certain women, and she'll stay in your heart forever. Only Bette Davis could portray her remarkable excursion to New York when she goes on a secret mission that will bring you to tears."
— Ilene Beckerman, author of Love, Loss, and What I Wore

"In the gentle hands of Billy Norwich, the tale of the odyssey of a simple woman, an "invisible" woman, to the city becomes a wise and sensitive statement of the dignity and decency of ordinary lives. The moving and wonderfully entertaining Mrs. Brown has great heart and a real soul. Thank you, Billy, for this very human tribute to the women who too often pass unseen, quietly and courageously carrying on."
— George Hodgman, author of Bettyville

"I read this from cover to cover in a day. What a wonderfully written, beautiful story. When did we all become so noisy and important? Thanks @williamnorwich, for reminding us what real manners really stand for."
— Nate Berkus

"My Mrs. Brown is a delightfully charming and poignant story that gets to the essence of why style matters, as a deeply personal expression of both who we are and who we want to be."
— Kate Betts, author of My Paris Dream

“If there’s anything he innately understands, it’s the true importance of finding the perfect dress…he chronicles this seminal quest, not from the eyes of a fashionista or celebrity, but from the perspective of a modest woman.”
— Tory Burch

"Much like the classic Oscar de la Renta dress this charming book pays homage to, My Mrs. Brown is lovely, timeless, and a pleasure to behold."
— Susan Rebecca White, author of A Soft Place to Land and A Place at the Table

"Quietly extraordinary....considering a literary market that hungers for women who kill and men who cheat, what Billy Norwich has done is different and courageous.  And he's done it so quietly and stylishly that his novel is impossible to overlook."
— Head Butler

“An unassuming yet magnetic older woman becomes possessed by the notion of acquiring an Oscar de la Renta dress. [A] fairy tale of a novel by fashion writer Norwich…Despite her plain Yankee exterior, [Mrs. Brown] has a dignity and luminosity of spirit that draws people to her… Like its main character, appealing, sweet, old-fashioned—and, at heart, very sad.”
— Kirkus Reviews

“Meet a delightfully old-fashioned heroine in My Mrs. Brown…Even if you find Mrs. Brown anachronistic, with a gentle conservatism of an age long-gone, you come to like and respect her. Then, you come to love her…Goodness really is its own reward, says Norwich’s gentle-hearted book. Better yet, sometimes goodness is rewarded.”
— BookPage

"Smart and touching."

“Mrs. Brown's incredible adventures in storming the gates of haute couture...details of heroic persistence, culture and manners and all of the rest of what we are mostly missing these days.”
— Liz Smith

“As a fashion journalist, William Norwich - Billy to his friends – knows a thing or two about celebrities getting dressed. But it was the anti-celebrity who inspired him to write My Mrs. Brown.”
— W Magazine

"Norwich crafts Mrs. Brown with the sensitivity of a seasoned sculptor....a flawless and immensely enjoyable tale of empowerment."
— Patrik Henry Bass

“Noted author and editor William Norwich has dazzled with his second novel, My Mrs. Brown, an elegant morsel reminiscent of Edith Wharton’s novellas. This book is certain to be tucked into fancy beach bags all over the East End this summer.”
— Hamptons

Simon & Schuster, 9781442386075, 304pp.

Publication Date: April 12, 2016

About the Author

William Norwich is a writer, editor, and video and television reporter. He is the author of the novels My Mrs. Brown and Learning to Drive as well as the children’s book Molly and the Magic Dress. Norwich also has written introductions and essays for many pictorial books. Currently the editor for fashion and interior design at Phaidon Press, he has also written and edited for The New York Times Magazine, Vogue, Town & Country, Architectural Digest, and New York magazine. Norwich is a graduate of the writing program at Columbia University (MFA), Hampshire College (BA), and the Pomfret School. He lives in New York City.