Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Staff Pick - Bringing Home the Birkin by Michael Tonello

Bringing Home the Birkin: my life in hot pursuit of the world's most coveted handbag by Michael Tonello is a wonderful light read even for the less fashion conscious amongst us. Should I be embarrassed, that prior to reading this book, I didn't know what a Birkin was, nor had I heard of Hermes?

Well, to get you up to speed, a Birkin is a handmade purse made from a variety of materials (crocodile, ostrich, lizard) which can cost, for its most exclusive product, upwards on $150,000. (And no, I didn't fall on the keyboard and add in those extra zeroes.) Hermes is a French fashion house that specializes in "lifestyle accessories" - scarves, bags. perfumes, ties, household geegaws, etc). Clever Hermes makes the Birkin all the more elusive by making them only available via a two-year waiting list.

Michael Tonello, a stylist based in Provincetown, traveled the world tending to the hair and makeup of models. A trip to Barcelona changes his life. He falls in love with the country and is delighted when a friend offers him a job there. Impulsively, he packs his bags, says goodbye to friends and family, and re-locates to Spain. When the job falls through, he bears no grudge, he does not panic and he does not run home with his tail between his legs. Tonello (while not impoverished) does find his funds running low, and starts selling some of the luxury items he has accumulated over the years on eBay.

He is surprised and delighted to see that his Hermes scarf has caused some excitement and customers are asking for more. Being a charming and engaging fellow, a customer shares some Hermes secrets with him, and his new career as a procurer and reseller of Hermes products begins. But what about the Birkin? His clients will pay two, three or more times the price if only he can get them one. In Da Vinci-like fashion Tonello cracks the Birkin waiting list code and begins a multi-continent pursuit of these elusive bags.

Not only will fans of The Shopaholic series be delighted by Bringing Home the Birkin, but the more fashion challenged will find much to enjoy here as well. Tonello turns the acquisition and resale of luxury items into a page-turner. There is an education in the world of high fashion, a primer on elegant traveling and fine dining and keen insights into human nature. And excitement! We can't forget the riveting tale of the kidnapped Birkin and the dangerous rescue operation.

Fans of chick lit will enjoy the memoir and these other recent additions to the genre:

A Vintage Affair
by Isabel Wolff

"Phoebe always dreamt of opening her own vintage dress shop. She imagined every detail, from the Vivienne Westwood bustiers hanging next to satin gowns, to sequinned cupcake dresses adorning the walls. At the launch of Village Vintage, Phoebe feels the tingle of excitement as customers snap up the fairytale dresses. Her dream has come true, but a secret from her past is casting a shadow over her new venture. Then one day she meets Therese, an elderly Frenchwoman with a collection to sell, apart from one piece that she won't part with. As Therese tells the story of the little blue coat, Phoebe feels a profound connection with her own life, one that will help her heal the pain of her past and allow her to love again." publisher

Hope in a Jar
by Beth Harbison

Twenty years ago, Allie Denty was the pretty one and her best friend Olivia Pelham was the smart one. Throughout high school, they were inseparable…until a vicious rumor about Olivia— a rumor too close to the truth—ended their friendship. Now, on the eve of their twentieth high school reunion, Allie, a temp worker, finds herself suddenly single, a little chubby, and feeling old. Olivia, a cool and successful magazine beauty editor in New York, realizes she’s lonely, and is finally ready to face her demons. Sometimes hope lives in the future; sometimes it comes from the past; and sometimes, when every stupid thing goes wrong, it comes from a prettily packaged jar filled with scented cream and promises." publisher

Last Night at Chateau Marmont
by Lauren Weisberger

"Brooke loved reading the dishy celebrity gossip rag Last Night. That is, until her marriage became a weekly headline.Brooke was drawn to the soulful, enigmatic Julian Alter the very first time she heard him perform “Hallelujah” at a dark East Village dive bar.Now five years married, Brooke balances two jobs—as a nutritionist at NYU Hospital and as a consultant to an Upper East Side girls’ school, where privilege gone wrong and disordered eating run rampant—in order to help support her husband’s dream of making it in the music world.

Things are looking up when after years of playing Manhattan clubs and toiling as an A&R intern, Julian finally gets signed by Sony. Although no one’s promising that the album will ever hit the airwaves, Julian is still dedicated to logging in long hours at the recording studio. All that changes after Julian is asked to perform on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno—and is catapulted to stardom, literally overnight. Amazing opportunities begin popping up almost daily—a new designer wardrobe, a tour with Maroon 5, even a Grammy performance.At first the newfound fame is fun—who wouldn’t want to stay at the Chateau Marmont or visit the set of one of television’s hottest shows? Yet it seems that Brooke’s sweet husband—the man who can’t handle hot showers and wears socks to bed—is increasingly absent, even on those rare nights they’re home together. When rumors about Brooke and Julian swirl in the tabloid magazines, she begins to question the truth of her marriage and is forced to finally come to terms with what she thinks she wants—and what she actually needs." publisher

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