As per the book blurb: When Clara Bishop, a struggling screenwriter-turned-tabloid journalist in Hollywood, is jilted by her philandering husband, she follows him to London, determined to win him back. Armed with only a glamorous wardrobe of vintage clothing inherited from her grandmother, a former film noir actress, Clara discovers that the clothes really do make the woman. Dressed to kill, she adopts a new femme fatale persona: confident, sexy and set on revenge.
This was a different sort of book that required a suspension of belief for most of it. At the start of it, Clara is living an average life in LA, married to the man of her dreams, but struggling to become the writer she wants to be. She’s a disappointment to her mother, who gave up an acting career to have Clara – she’d hoped that Clara would follow in her footsteps, not just stay behind the scenes. Her grandmother, Alicia, had one big role as a femme fatale in the 50s before her sudden death that many assumed was suicide.
Clara’s husband, Dean, unceremoniously dumps her for a younger, sexier woman and takes off to London for a new reality TV show he is producing. While she is wallowing in despair, Clara spends time at her mother’s house and they come across the stash of clothes that belonged to Alicia. Impulsively, Clara tries on one of the gowns and feels as if her grandmother is suddenly more real to her. They are nothing alike in Clara’s mind – Alicia was mysterious and sexy, with red hair and a bombshell body to make men lust after her. Clara is less assertive, her hair is mousey brown and she just lost her husband to another woman, after all.
She makes a decision to follow Dean to London in an attempt to get him back, and takes along a suitcase with Alicia’s clothes that inexplicably is stuck shut when she gets there. After she stalks Dean and sees him with his new lover, she decides to make a change in her life and dyes her hair red. Her prayer before falling asleep is to her grandmother to help her through this. And then the book takes a strange turn – the next day she wakes up to find the entire world is black and white, and she’s been transported to 1952. Everyone in her world is dressed period appropriate and don’t seem to be aware anything is amiss. London is a foggy dark backdrop to Clara’s new confidence as she wears Alicia’s clothes (the suitcase mysteriously pops open for her), and sets out to get her vengeance for Dean’s infidelity. She makes deals with a hot reporter and tries to get a film producer to offer her grandmother a job so that Alicia won’t kill herself. (Obviously she hasn’t watched ‘Star Trek’ where they always tell you not to mess with the space-time continuum!) She finds an old typewriter that seems to have a mind of its own from time to time, and is inspired to write her own screen play amidst all the other drama.
The story is intercut with scenes in current time of Clara being interrogated by a police officer, but you have no idea how that fits in until the end of the book. Overall, it was a quick read – the chapters are fairly short so it’s easy to get through. Ms Izzo mixes elements of the film noir with the screwball comedies and doesn’t take it overly seriously. The time travel is never really explained so you just have to go with the flow!